It took a long time to get approved, but there's a new emergency number in the works for New York State residents. Traditionally, 911 was the number to call for any emergency, but all crises can't be solved by a single solution. With a recent bill passage, New York has taken a firm stance on the adoption of a new emergency number for suicide prevention.

There's a new number to call in case of mental health emergencies (photo: Marjan Grabowski)
There's a new number to call in case of mental health emergencies (photo: Marjan Grabowski)
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Back in 2020, the FCC voted to change the national suicide prevention hotline number from 800-273-8255 to 988, with the idea to not only localize emergency response by state, but to simplify the steps needed to contact a professional in times of a mental health emergency. The FCC gave states until mid-2022 to comply, but the recently passed legislation in New York tackles some of the obstacles that might prevent proper implementation. According to New York State senator Samra G. Brouk, a supporter of the bill,

This legislation goes further to ensure that there are appropriate training and reporting measures in place. The bill also provides for public service announcements and messaging to target hard to reach and historically underserved populations.

Luckily, New York has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country, but I think we can agree that any number is too high. Just last week, a man tragically jumped to his death off the Newburgh-Beacon bridge. Any steps taken towards making mental health response easier is welcome. The new number would not only make dialing for help easier as previously mentioned, but 998 operators would work in conjunction with traditional 911 operators to make sure the proper resources are dispatched. According to WHAM, calling 988 would connect callers with a psychiatric EMT. They would also have an option to be brought to a mental health urgent care facility instead of the emergency room.

Highway closed, police directs traffic to local road.
Not all emergencies require a police response. The new 9-8-8 number would connect callers with mental health professionals and psychiatrist EMTs (photo: eyfoto)
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The traditional 800 number (once again: 800-273-TALK (8255)) will remain in place even after 988 is made active.

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