WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — First Choice Services out of Charleston says it is ahead of the game when it comes to a new national emergency mental health hotline number that is being rolled out across the U.S. July 16th.

Many county officials throughout the U.S. say they’re not ready for the new number to take effect.

However, First Choice Services Communications and Marketing Director Sheila Moran says West Virginia is prepared for a few reasons.

For one, First Choice has been taking called for more than 20 years and taking chats and texts for more than 10 years.

Moran says they have an infrastructure in place and a knowledgeable staff who has the experience answering these kinds of calls.

According to Moran, West Virginia received a national grant at the federal level which also puts the state ahead of other states.

For example, calls will get fielded to the Mountain State because it is considered a back-up center for anyone who may need help.

Currently people can call 1-800-273-TALK, but according to Moran starting July 16th they can simply hit 988.

In a couple of weeks you’ll be able to dial 988 and here in West Virginia you’re going to get the same people. It’s just going to be an easier number to remember and you’ll be able to text and chat it as well. 988 is a little bit more of a broad scope it’s being marketed as a suicide hotline and crisis hotline so anyone who feels like they’re in any type of a mental health crisis or worried about a loved one can call and get some assistance.

Sheila Moran, First Choice Services

Moran says First Choice Services in the process of hiring people who will solely just take calls for the new 988 number.

It is important to note that the three-digit number will supersede the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has grown from about 50,000 calls in 2005 to more than 2.4 million in 2020.