ST. LOUIS – There will be a change for people who live in certain area codes in Missouri and Illinois. Starting Saturday, some callers may want to begin practicing dialing ten-digit phone numbers, the area code plus the number.
A lot of people are just learning about the new dialing system for those in 35 states including Missouri and Illinois. Those who have the area codes 314, 417, 660 and 816 in Missouri or the Illinois area codes 618, 309 and 708 will have to dial all ten digits.
This is because of a new national suicide hotline that goes into service in the future. People with mental health challenges will soon be able to dial 988 anywhere in the United States for help.
Chief Clinical Officer at Behavioral Health Response Dr. Bart Andrews said he strongly supports the nationwide hotline.
“It’s incredibly exciting because for years crisis services and suicide prevention services have been unrecognized and undervalued,” Andrews said.
Andrews said Behavioral Health Response is 1 of 160 agencies that currently supports the national suicide hotline and will continue to do so after the 988 number goes into effect.
“You make it easier for people to call you, get more calls, which is what we want,” Andrews said. We want to make it easier for people in crisis to reach out.”
He said some people having a mental-health crisis have been calling 911; now, they will have 988, which gets them directly to a person they need.
“We don’t need law enforcement and ambulances responding to most behavior health crises. By calling 988, you’re going to get a trained clinician who knows how to help you,” Andrews said.
In the future, devices that use a phone line including fax machines, fire, burglar or security alarm systems and speed dialers may also need to be reprogrammed.
Those trying to use only seven digits in late October will get a recording telling them to dial all ten.
The change is necessary to make the new 988 system work nationwide.