The new 988 three-digit dialing code for mental health emergencies went into service over the weekend.

The new number designated by the Federal Communications Commission routes callers to the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which until now has been reached through 1-800-273-TALK (8255). That number remains available.

When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who will listen, provide support and connect them to necessary resources.

The Evanston Police Department, in a news release Monday, said the 988 crisis line will:

  • Connect a person in a mental health crisis to a trained counselor who can address their immediate needs and help connect them to ongoing care.
  • Reduce use of law enforcement, public health, and other safety resources.
  • Meet the growing need for crisis intervention.
  • Help end stigma of seeking or accessing mental healthcare.

The Police Department says that for police, fire or medical emergencies the number to call is still 911. But now, for urgent mental health needs, call 988.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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