About half of Missouri is now required to adhere to 10-digit dialing to make local calls to accommodate a new phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved 988 as the nationwide shorthand number for the hotline last summer. Similar to the 911 system, the three-digit dialing option will allow callers to quickly connect with a certified listener beginning July 16, 2022.
“988 will save lives. Helping Americans in crisis connect to counselors trained in suicide prevention is one of the most important things we can do at the FCC,” former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said last year. “Establishing this special purpose number will also highlight the urgency of addressing rising suicide rates in America and reduce the stigma too often associated with seeking assistance from suicide prevention and mental health services.”
With that national rule came a change for many phone customers: Local calls through seven-digit dialing will no longer be available for customers in area codes with a 988 prefix, requiring callers to input the full 10-digit phone number. Callers using seven-digit dialing after the transition will be met with a recorded message instructing them to try again using the area code.
The change affected customers using 314, 417, 660, and 816 area codes, including the St. Louis region and the western half of the state. More than 82 areas across 35 states were required to make the change.
Affected areas fully transitioned to 10-digit dialing on Oct. 24. The 10-digit dialing option became available in April for Missouri callers.
Beyond changes to callers’ dialing practices, multiple services in these areas needed to be reprogrammed to remain operational beyond the FCC’s deadline. Medical alert devices, fax machines, speed dialers, security systems, internet modems, medical monitoring devices, and more were adjusted to accommodate 10-digit dialing.
Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has encouraged individuals and businesses to update advertisements, stationery, websites, and any other location listing their contact information if necessary.
The PSC collaborated with the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) — a group that divides regions by their area codes and educates customers on dialing and services under the FCC — to inform customers of the change and ensure service providers met their deadlines. The NANP developed the timeline on the FCC’s behalf based on feedback from providers affected by the transition.
The PSC began preparing for the transition last December, ordering providers to submit transition plans and evaluate its impact on the industry.
Further changes to the system may be on the way in the coming years: The FCC is set to consider a text-to-988 option during its Nov. 18 meeting.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener before July’s transition, call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
The Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.
Cameron Gerber studied journalism at Lincoln University. Prior to Lincoln, he earned an associate’s degree from State Fair Community College. Cameron is a native of Eldon, Missouri.
Contact Cameron at email@example.com.