CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTRF) – Mental health services have always been only a phone call away. Now, they’re only three numbers away. 

The phone number for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline across the country changes to 988 on Saturday. Although representatives from First Choice Services told 7News that it is up and running already.

In West Virginia, they’ve been ready for this change for months because they expect call volume to go up now that the number is easy to remember. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis call 988. You can also chat online at WV988.org.

It’s a huge step in the right direction for West Virginia, for mental health and for our nation.

Terrance Hamm, Program Director, West Virginia 988

It’s a step that First Choice Services in West Virginia has been anticipating for months. They’ve prepared to make sure they’re ready with the best help as fast as possible. 

I’ve seen where people have had to wait long periods of time to get in for some type of therapy or clinician for some type of support. With 988 people now have access 24-hours a day.

Terrance Hamm, Program Director, West Virginia 988

Although First Choice Services already had the infrastructure in place because they ran the state’s response to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, they still had to hire more staff to deal with the projected increase in services needed. 

Before that could happen, they waited a few months for a bill to make it through the state legislature. 

–> West Virginia bill signing is “game changer” for mental health <–

Now if someone calls for help in West Virginia it’ll be answered by a counselor from the Mountain State, even if it’s not a mental health crisis. First Choice Services offers a variety of helplines for those in need. Learn more at firstchoiceservices.org.

If someone calls 988, but they say ‘I have a gambling problem’, we can say ‘great, the person sitting next to me answers 1-800-GAMBLER’. If they say ‘but I also need to quit smoking’, great. The person on the other side of me answers the tobacco quit line and we have all of those different services.

Sheila Moran, Director of Marketing and Communications, First Choice Services

First Choice Services is also helping to answer the chats and texts from other states. 

That’s a whole separate grant, so we’re very proud First Choice got the grant to be a national chat and text backup center, so we’ve been hiring for that as well.

Sheila Moran, Director of Marketing and Communications, First Choice Services

No matter what the number, or what you need, the message from West Virginia 988 is clear. They’re here for you. All you have to do is call.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. There are people that are trained, ready to listen. It may seem insignificant at the moment, but if it’s something that’s causing you some type of challenge, please reach out. 

Terrance Hamm, Program Director, West Virginia 988

If you or someone you know is in crisis call 988. You can also chat online at WV988.org.