(WIVB) — If your home phone is still connected to the world by landline, starting later this year, you will need to dial the 716 area code for local calls.
The change is to make way for a new nationwide suicide prevention lifeline, and it would prevent a lot of headaches for ordinary citizens.
The new number is 9-8-8, and it is designed to get people in a mental health crisis the help they need quickly.
In areas with a 9-8-8 exchange, in Western New York it would be South Dayton, a call for help to the 9-8-8 telephone exchange might end up going to someone’s home number.
The 9-8-8 number is to become a nationwide suicide prevention lifeline for saving lives.
Crisis Services’ Robyn Wiktorski-Reynolds told us, “The idea was to try to simplify and increase access for individuals in crisis, including suicide, as well as a mental health crisis.”
Robyn Wiktorski-Reynolds is the Clinical Operations Officer for Crisis Services which is the hub for the crisis hotline in Western New York and she says the timing in light of the worldwide COVID pandemic is critical.
“We have certainly seen an increase and trending up the amount of calls we receive for individuals in crisis.”
In three weeks on April 24 local landline calls will require dialing the 716 area code, but if you forget, the call will still go through.
Then on October 24, dialing the area code will be mandatory, and if you forget you will get a recording that your call cannot be completed as dialed.
As of July next year attempts to call numbers with a 9-8-8 prefix will be routed directly to the suicide prevention lifeline.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is set up as a hub to get those in mental health crises the help they need as soon as possible, and Wiktorski-Reynolds says, it will be live 24/7.
“No one should be alone in their time of crisis, whatever that crisis looks like. We want individuals to reach out and contact–if it is not a loved one or a friend–we are always here at Crisis Services 24 hours a day to receive your call,” Wiktorski-Reynolds said.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling through a mental health crisis information about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available here.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.