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Health News Florida

Orange County is preparing for the 988 suicide prevention hotline that starts in July

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Mayor Jerry Demings says the number should not only be easier for people to remember compared with the current 10-digit number, but will also offer expanded referrals to local treatment centers.

Florida counties are working with health care providers to prepare for the rollout of the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.

Beginning in mid-July, when people photo, text or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who are part of the network. These counselors will listen, provide support and connect callers to resources, if necessary.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says this new number should not only be easier for people to remember compared with the current 10-digit number, but will also offer expanded referrals to local treatment centers.

“It is something that we have to make certain that we are prepared for, so the back of the house has to be in order. We have to have the resources because the suggestion here is that if you dial 988 then that means that you got to have the community resources to respond to it,” Demings says.

Demings says the goal is to take some of the burden off 911 call centers, when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.

“So this is a timely effort on our behalf,” he says. “You’re going to hear much more about this across the country what 988 truly means, and so putting this task force in place to make this evaluation is truly important.”

Florida ranks 49th when it comes to accessing mental health treatment, according to the Mental Health America 2022 report.

Before 988 is activated in your area, call the current number, 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in English or Spanish.