Santa Clara County has launched a new lifeline phone number that aims to assist individuals in times of mental health or substance use crisis. It can be reached by dialing the three-digit number 988 and is staffed with trained counselors 24 hours, seven days a week.

The service is free, anonymous, and confidential; no information will be shared unless counselors deem in-person dispatch necessary.

As a part of the nationwide push to increase the availability of crisis and suicide prevention services, the 988 lifeline has been designated as the new dialing code to connect people with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, officially replacing the previous 11-digit number as of Saturday, July 16.

The goals of the new operation are outlined as: de-escalation, stabilization, and referral to continued services.

“By calling 988, people will get connected with services as well as receive immediate help for those experiencing a crisis that could result in harm to themselves or others,” Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Mike Wasserman said.

“988 is easy to remember, making it simple for people facing a mental health crisis or thinking about suicide to get the help they need.”

Sherri Terao, Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department

Designed to support those experiencing mental health distress — including thoughts of suicide, fearfulness, or substance-related issues — the lifeline also serves as a critical intersection for county Behavioral Health Services and community-based organizations. After dialing the lifeline, people will be connected to the county’s various onsite mobile response teams comprised of crisis clinicians and peer outreach specialists.

Trained specialists will assess individuals on case-by-case situations, providing an array of services that range from de-escalating conversations, referrals, or interventions. Services that do or do not involve law enforcement are both available.

“988 is easy to remember, making it simple for people facing a mental health crisis or thinking about suicide to get the help they need,” said Sherri Terao, director of the county’s Behavioral Health Services Department.

Santa Clara County reports that its Behavioral Health Services staff are thoroughly trained and prepared for the new system, and that language interpretation is available in more that 200 languages.

Calls to 988 are routed by area code. If the phone used to call the lifeline does not have a 408, 650, or 669 area code, Santa Clara County services can still be accessed by dialing (800) 704-0900 and pressing 1.

Loved ones and others are also encouraged to call 988 if they are concerned for the well-being of someone else.