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FCC Working On Solving Location Problem For 988 Suicide Calls

If someone were to call the national mental health and suicide prevention phone number — the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline — there’s a chance they’d be sent to a call center thousands of miles away. Where a caller is sent depends on the area code of their telephone number. That means someone who originally got their phone number in Maryland or some other distant state would be routed to that state even if they were now in Sacramento. This can be a huge problem for the counselors trained to help callers quickly and decisively. Counselors often want to recommend local resources or, if needed, send law enforcement intervention, McClatchy DC reports. While most callers don’t require someone to check on them in person, seconds matter when someone’s life is at risk.

“We can’t just be assuming that just because they have a ‘559’ that they’re here in the [central California] Valley,” said Jessica Franco, an outreach coordinator at the Fresno lifeline call center. “We want to make sure that we’re giving obviously the appropriate information to PD.” The problem could soon be fixed. The federal agency that regulates communication services kickstarted a rulemaking process last month to require wireless carriers to implement a solution. The Federal Communications Commission approved starting the process of getting wireless providers to have 988 calls “geo-routed.” Geographical routing or “geo-routing” does not give a caller’s precise location. It sends calls to a destination based on the nearby wireless tower it used to connect.


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