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The suicide lifeline will soon be 3 digits: Is the country ready for the switch to 988? (USA Today)

Jonathan Porteus' health center in California receives about 70,000 calls a year to its suicide prevention line, but that volume may soon triple, he says.

The Sacramento-based center, WellSpace Health, is one of more than 200 crisis

centers connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that are actively ramping up their capacity in anticipation of a new three-digit number, 988, that will connect callers around the country to the lifeline come July.

"I want to be optimistic," Porteus, WellSpace Health's CEO, said of meeting the demand.

"You have to answer the phone every time it rings."

Following federal legislation and rules from the Federal Communications Commission, all phone service providers will be required to connect callers who dial 988 to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16.

The existing lifeline relies on a 10-digit number, 1-800-273-8255. The switch to 988 presents both an opportunity and a challenge for advocates who see the potential to expand services while also worrying about added pressures on an already strained mental health care system.

The switch to 988 is "an opportunity to reimagine crisis services more broadly," said Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Read the full story here:

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