In a unanimous vote, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved a new three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

The FCC will now begin the rule making process in relation to the change, which the commission hopes to have in place within the next 18 months. “988 has an echo of the 911 number we all know as an emergency number,” says commission chairman Ajit Pai. “And we believe that this three-digit number dedicated for this purpose will help ease access to crisis services, it will reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health conditions, and ultimately it will save lives.”

While changing a phone number might not sound complicated, it clearly isn’t cheap. The FCC estimates the costs of a public awareness campaign and revisions to its call center will total about $570 million the first year, and another $175 million the second.

Danielle Tufano

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