Montgomery County, Ohio (WDTN) — Beginning Saturday, people experiencing a mental health crisis will be able to call or text a three-digit number, 988, to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and connect with mental health professionals in Montgomery County.

“When an individual in Montgomery County calls 988, they will be directed with a clinician who can help talk them through whatever the crisis is. Maybe it’s someone who is having suicidal ideation. Maybe it’s someone having a substance use crisis,” Tina Rezash Rogal, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communication for The Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) of Montgomery County, said.

“That individual on the other end of the phone will be able to deescalate the situation, and then connect that individual to one of our many wonderful behavioral health providers here in Montgomery County for follow up treatment and services.”

The hotline will provide 24/7 free and confidential emotional support around the country to those in mental health distress, according to Rezash Rogal.

The hotline is made up of a network of 200 local crisis centers around the country, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website explains.

“When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network,” the website says. “These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.”

The three-digit number is expected to be easier to remember in times of crisis than the 10-digit 800 number currently handled by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is also meant to streamline mental health responses so people can get the urgent help they need much faster than by calling 911, which generally connects callers to law enforcement agencies rather than mental health professionals, according to NBC News reporter Danielle Silva.

Its launch comes about two years after the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act passed in 2020 to designate 988 as the universal number for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.

“This is really an exciting time in our country. We know that COVID-19 and the isolation that brought about, really impacted the mental health of this country. So to be able to provide this service, the timing is just beautiful,” Rezash Rogal said.

“People are hurting. They’re encouraged to reach out, call 988, call the Crisis Now Hotline. Help is just a phone call away. So don’t wait, please. Call these numbers if you’re struggling. We want to connect you to the services that will help you get better.”