Iowa callers must start using area codes in preparation of 988 suicide prevention hotline

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DES MOINES, Iowa – The days of dialing just seven numbers to reach your local friends and family will soon be coming to an end. Starting Sunday, Oct. 24, Iowans will need to use the 515 or 319 when making a local call.

The change comes as officials are preparing to add a new three-digit number, 988, to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 

It’s a number that mental health advocates think will make a big difference.

“988 is a new three-digit number that is like 911, only it’s specifically for people who are in a behavioral health crisis,” Peggy Huppert, executive director of NAMI Iowa, said.

In order for it to work, Iowans in the 515 and 319 area codes will need to start dialing 10 digits to complete regular calls. That’s because some of the local phone numbers in those codes use 988 as the prefix for some seven-digit phone numbers.

“It’s worth dialing three extra digits, so that somebody who is feeling like they have no hope can reach out and get help,” Keri Neblett, suicide prevention director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said.

Neblett is in charge of implementing the 988 crisis lifeline in the state. She said there’s a lot that goes into it, including building capacity for the crisis centers that will be taking these calls as well as providing alternative languages.

“We really think that it can change the face of mental health, and how the community and how the state and how the nation responds to mental health crises,” Neblett said.

Huppert is also part of the group that’s working to launch 988 in Iowa. She said the three-digit number will create more awareness that help is available, but notes that funding will be critical in not only answering the calls but helping the callers from there.

“No matter what number they call and who they talk to, they get the help that they need when they need it,” Huppert said. “That’s the crucial thing, and we’re not doing that well enough in the state of Iowa. At this point, we can do better.”

The new national suicide prevention lifeline three-digit code “988” will be available nationwide in July of next year.

In the meantime, help is still available. You can call or text Your Life Iowa, the state’s 24-7 suicide prevention hotline. Call: (855) 581-8111 or text: (855) 895-8398

There’s also someone available 24-7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

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