988 FAQs:
Answers to common questions.

The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services has collected this list of commonly asked questions concerning 988. If you have a question you don’t see here, email us, and we’ll get you an answer.

About Virginia’s 988 service

988 offers 24/7 access to trained crisis workers who can help people experiencing any kind of mental health crisis or emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a friend or loved one who may need crisis support.

988 was established to improve access to crisis services in a way that meets Virginia’s growing suicide and mental health-related crisis care needs. 988 provides easier access to mental health crisis resources, while 911 focuses on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire, and police for public safety.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 established 988 as a new three-digit telephone number to serve as a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system to connect people in crisis with life-saving resources. With this new, easy-to-remember number, Virginia hopes to increase public access to mental health and crisis resources, encourage individuals in crisis to get help, and provide a crucial entry point to mental healthcare.

It matters because it’s proven to help people experiencing mental health crises. Numerous studies have shown that most callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now 988) are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to a trained crisis worker. National models show that almost 80% of people who call 988 get the crisis support they need and do not require additional services in that moment.

Under Virginia’s new crisis system, should a 988 caller require in person de-escalation, a mobile team will be sent out from one of five “regional hubs.” These hubs are local dispatch centers operated by community service boards (CSBs), and their staff is equipped to respond to callers who need more assistance. Virginia’s vision is to provide 24/7 access and response from a team within an hour.

The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services has provided resources for 988 partners in Virginia to use when communicating about 988 to their audiences. These resources include content and graphics for social media and digital sharing. DBHDS is also working on a statewide communications campaign to advertise and promote awareness of 988 to the public, and a national advertising campaign for 988 will run later this year.

About your CAll to 988

When you call 988, you’ll hear a message that calls may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes. Additionally, crisis centers may independently use call recordings for training purposes, depending on the best practices of the center. It’s also important to note that you’re not required to provide any personal data to receive services when you call 988. 988 call centers recognize the importance and the expectation of privacy when a person contacts 988. Your personal information is not shared with any other party without your consent unless there is a life-threatening situation.

Geolocation services are not enabled for 988. Currently, calls to 988 are automatically routed to the closest 988 crisis center based on the area code of the phone being used. Since people commonly keep their same mobile phone numbers when they’ve moved (or perhaps they call 988 when they are traveling), a caller can be routed to a crisis center that is not in their same area. If the person wants to be connected to additional local services or requires emergency service, they may need to disclose their location to the 988-crisis worker on the phone. If you are trying to reach a 988 call center in Virginia using an out-of-state area code, you can call 703-752-5263. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is actively analyzing information to find routing improvements that could help 988 callers connect to their regional call center without sharing specific geolocation information.

The primary goal of 988 is to provide support for people with mental health-related distress or any other kind of emotional distress in the moments they most need it. The vast majority of those seeking help from 988 do not require any additional intervention at that moment. Currently, fewer than 1% of 988 calls require connection to emergency services like 911. While some safety and health issues may warrant a response from law enforcement and/or Emergency Medical Services (for example, when a suicide attempt is in progress), 988’s coordinated response is intended to promote crisis stabilization and care with minimal first responder intervention. Virginia’s Marcus Alert program is working to ensure that when law enforcement is involved in these types of situations, trained officers are sent.

All 988 crisis call center staff work with callers to provide support and assistance for people at risk in the least restrictive setting possible – via phone. In fact, most contacts with 988 are resolved by trained mental health professionals in a manner that does not require additional immediate intervention or hospitalization.


988 currently serves TTY users either through their preferred relay service or by dialing 711 then 1-800-273-8255.

Anyone in Virginia who is struggling can use text or chat functions for help, whether it be someone who is depressed, needs to talk, or is contemplating suicide. Crisis workers are here to listen and support you through whatever difficult times you may be facing. To start a text conversation with the 988 service, you can send any message to 988 to be connected to a trained crisis worker. The 988 chat service is available 24/7 from our website. If you have trouble connecting to the chat service, we encourage you to call 988 instead.

About Continued Support

While 988 is a national initiative, Virginia took it a step further, adopting a whole new system. Crisis services in Virginia include (1) 988 crisis lines, operating 24/7, accepting all calls and dispatching support based on the assessed needs of the caller, (2) mobile crisis teams dispatched to wherever the need is in the community (not hospital emergency departments), and (3) crisis receiving and stabilization facilities that serve everyone who comes through their doors from all referral sources. These services are for anyone, anywhere, and anytime in Virginia.

Additional information on suicide and crisis services specific to Virginia’s ongoing rollout of 988 can be found at 988VA.org or on the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services website. There are also national resources available from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).