Kansas transitioning to 10-digit dialing ahead of new 988 suicide prevention number

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TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly asked Kansans using the 785 and 620 telephone area codes to begin preparing for transition to a 10-digit dialing requirement for local calls to accommodate implementation of an abbreviated national suicide hotline number.

The federal government authorized the number 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to create quicker access to assistance in the manner of 911 calls in an emergency.

Kansans with the 785 or 620 area codes would be required to adopt the 10-digit dialing method Oct. 24. Kelly recommended people begin the transition April 24, but calls dialed with seven digits would still go through during the six-month practice period. Individuals using the 913 area code in the Kansas City market and the 316 area code in the Wichita area wouldn’t need to change their approach to local dialing.

“Ten-digit dialing will help those in crisis reach the appropriate resources during their time of need,” Kelly said Tuesday in a statement. “I encourage all Kansans to get used to using 10-digit dialing during the trial period to avoid any confusion.”

In addition to the two area codes in Kansas creating a conflict with 988 prefix telephone numbers, the change required 80 other area codes in 35 states to adapt to the new 10-digit dialing system. U.S. telephone users would still use the 1 + the area code and telephone number on long-distance calls.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, was among federal lawmakers to introduce the legislation leading to the suicide and mental health crisis hotline designation. President Donald Trump signed the 988 bill in October during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This pandemic has highlighted the need for modernized mental health and suicide prevention resources and this easy-to-remember number will help connect callers in need of help with experts who can offer resources and hope to make it through a mental health crisis,” Moran said.

While the mandate on 10-digit dialing applies on Oct. 24, the abbreviated 988 number for the hotline won’t be activated until July 16, 2022. Until that time, people in crisis can continue to dial 1-800-273-8255 for assistance. This lengthy number, as opposed to a three-digit number, was viewed as a barrier to people seeking support.

Information distributed by the Kansas Corporation Commission indicated automatic dialing equipment would need to be reprogramed to accommodate 10-digit numbers. That would include security systems, fire alarms, speed dialers, medical monitoring devices and telephone contact lists.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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