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Friday, June 14, 2024

New lifeline number has veterans/military component

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SANTA FE — A new three-digit phone number has replaced the existing and often hard-to-remember 10-digit national suicide prevention and crisis phone number.

The new number to call is 9-8-8, and it features a military and veterans feature.

Veterans or service members facing a crisis can simply dial 9-8-8 and press Option 1 to be immediately linked to the same U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) support system featured with the old phone number. The old number will remain active and will re-route calls to the new 988 system.

Mental health advocates are hoping calling 988 will replace emergency calls to 911 for mental health crises. According to the VA, while 911 dispatchers are prepared to send first responders and support callers during an emergency, staffers linked to the 988 number are counselors specifically trained to immediately handle distraught callers, access records, and send help.

New Mexico has also joined has joined the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and Their Families.

This is a collaboration between states to develop plans in their states to implement the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which provides a framework for identifying priorities, organizing efforts, and developing veteran suicide prevention strategies and outreach at the state level.

The New Mexico Department of Veterans Services (NMDVS) is the lead agency in New Mexico for this collaboration. NMDVS Cabinet Secetary Sonya Smith and NMDVS Field Services Division Director Robin Wilson were in Alexandria, Va., last week for a meeting with other states’ Governor’s Challenge representatives.

“The new national 988 phone number is a tremendous development,” said Smith. “But we will do more here in New Mexico. I am honored that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has tasked our agency to lead the state’s veteran and service member suicide prevention effort. We’ve learned a lot from our initial meeting and will be implementing a plan soon.”

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