Change in dialing certain Kansas area codes will save lives, mental health professionals say

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MISSION, Kan. – This week, there’s been a change in how you can get ahold of people who have certain area codes in Kansas.

It’s in an effort to prevent suicides across the state, and nation. Mental health professionals believe it will save lives.

It’s to avoid people accidentally dialing a future 3-digit speed-dial to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The change went into effect Sunday.

People with 785 and 620 area codes need to start dialing 10 digits to complete local calls. Dialing three extra numbers is a huge step toward zero suicides.

“Folks are using crisis lines more and more,” Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ Vice Pres. for External Programming Monica Kurz said.

The speed-dial, “988”, is not set up yet. It’ll go live July 16, 2022. Since 2016, they’ve seen a 59% increase in calls in Kansas, according to Kurz.

“It tells me that this is the kind of help folks want,” Kurz said. “We’re just going to take that “guess” work out of it. Three digits very easy to remember. So, we think this is going to be a very good thing for people across the state.”

Just like 1-800-273-TALK does now, dialing “988” will eventually lead people here to one of four crisis call centers in Kansas.

Johnson County is unique in that they staff the center with all licensed health professionals and that’s who will be waiting on the other line.

National lifeline patches calls to the center closest to your area code location.

Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center, said that is important in getting people the help they need.

“They will be talking to a mental health profession from Johnson County that knows the community resources. So, they will be able to connect people with the level of care they need,” DeWeese said.

The 913 and 316 areas are not affected by this rule. The phone companies there have never used 988 for local prefixes.

“When you’re able to dial 988, just like 911, you’re able to access, people are able to access regardless of your age and that will be able to help save lives,” DeWeese said.

There’s a house bill that will be discussed this legislative session in January.

If the bill is passed, Kansans would pay $0.50 extra for each phone line – meaning if you have a family of four with four phones, that would be a dollar extra a year.

Then that money will go to help run the 988 lifeline.

If you are thinking of hurting or killing yourself, please call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

If you are struggling and need to talk to someone who understands, call 1-866-WARM-EAR or 913-281-2251.

If you need more information or a referral, please call Mental Health of America at 913-281-2221.

No matter your financial situation, there is help available. Please seek help if you or someone you know is suffering.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.

Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

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