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Mental health emergency phone number coming next year


A new three-digit phone number — 988 — is coming next year. A federal act, passed in 2020, mandated the number, which should be called if somebody experiencing a behavioral health issue. It is required to be available by July 16, 2022. 

The number will connect somebody experiencing a behavioral health crisis with a trained staff person who can help them and connect them to ongoing care.

Julia Ratti, Washoe County Health District’s director of programs and projects, also a state senator, said the 988 number will be available in Washoe County in July.

“The public will be able to call if they’re having a behavioral health crisis, 988, and that will then dump them into what is known as the national lifeline,” she said last week. 

The 988 number will be directed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). From there, it is expected local service providers will then be made available.  

“This is a community-wide priority,” she said. Once the number goes live, “everybody in our community who is experiencing a behavioral health crisis has a place to call … which is the first part, someone to come to them, which is the mobile crisis team, and then somewhere to go.”

Ratti said the county is waiting for providers to apply to provide services for once the line is live. Rates for phone fees and Medicaid reimbursements are unknown, so there is uncertainty about the process. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ website notes the 988 number is “to reimagine crisis response in our country. We believe that every person in crisis, and their families, should receive a humane response that treats them with dignity and connects them to appropriate and timely care.”

Northern Nevada in October shifted to 10-digit dialing for the 775 area code, which includes a 988 prefix in its directory, in preparation for the launch of 988. 

The federal bill creating the 988 number was signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2020.


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Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.