988 number began last weekend

PIERRE, S.D.(DRGNews)- The United States’ first nationwide three-digit mental health and substance abuse crisis hotline was activated over the weekend.

Janet Kittams is the CEO of the Helpline Center, the entity operating the 988 Lifeline in South Dakota. She says instead of a dispatcher sending law enforcement or paramedics, 988 connects callers with trained mental health counselors.

Kittams says calling 988 will connect you to mental health or substance abuse resources anywhere in South Dakota.

Kittams says the 988 Lifeline also has assistance for people worried about someone having a mental health crisis or substance abuse issues.

She says the Helpline Center also answers South Dakota’s 211 calls, which provides different resources than 988.

Kittams says 988 will hopefully help reduce the stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health, substance abuse or addiction issues.

The 988 Lifeline operates through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 1-800 number (1.800.273.8255), but is easier to remember and use– much like 911 for emergencies. Kittams says the professionally trained staff of South Dakota’s Helpline Center have been answering the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline since 2005.