To more easily accommodate access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, callers in two Minnesota area codes now must use all 10 digits when trying to connect to phone numbers within their respective area codes, just as is required for all other calls.
The affected area codes in Minnesota are 952, largely in the west and south metro, and 218 across the northern half of the state.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said those two area codes are among 82 across the country that made the 10-digit entry mandatory as of Oct. 24 because they have some numbers with a 988 exchange, or prefix, which can no longer be the first three digits entered.
That's because officials are preparing to make 988 the number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is set to go live in July 2022.
The switch for the 952 and 218 area codes covers communities such as Duluth, Bemidji and Moorhead in the north, and Eden Prairie, Bloomington and Burnsville in the Twin Cities area.
If muscle memory prevails and only seven digits are entered involving the affected area codes, "a recording will inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed," read a statement from the FCC. "You must hang up and dial again using the area code and the seven-digit number."
The FCC said that any speed-dialing setups and business phone systems should be checked and changed as needed in order to avoid failed calls.
Area codes that made the switch elsewhere in the Upper Midwest include 319 and 515 in Iowa, 605 in South Dakota, and 262, 414, 608 and 920 in Wisconsin.
The North American Numbering Plan Administrator has compiled a list of the states and area codes that are affected by the transition.
The 988 number will be available nationwide starting July 16 and will provide a quick way to reach suicide prevention and mental health counselors, similar to 911 for emergencies and 311 for local government services.
"It's difficult to remember a 10-digit number at any time, but particularly when you are struggling with your mental health," Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota, said Friday. "Having an easy to remember number — 988 — will make the suicide lifeline more accessible to people who need it. Any efforts to remove barriers and improve access to supports when someone is struggling are important to prevent suicides."
After Congress approved establishing 988 last year, then-FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, "Experts predict that it will result in millions more Americans receiving the intervention services they desperately need. And when more Americans receive these services, we know that more lives will be saved."
Until 988 becomes available in July, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482