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ST. LOUIS – There will be a big change for people who live in certain area codes in Missouri and Illinois. Starting Saturday, April 24, 2021, you may want to begin practicing dialing ten-digit phone numbers, the area code plus the number.

A lot of people are just learning about the new dialing system for those in 35 states including Missouri and Illinois. If you have these area codes in Missouri: 314, 417, 660, 816, or the Illinois area codes: 618, 309, 708, it’s time to practice dialing all ten digits.

This is all because of a new national suicide hotline that goes into service in the future. People with mental health challenges will soon be able to call 9-8-8 anywhere in the United States for help.

Chief Clinical Officer at Behavioral Health Response Dr. Bart Andrews said he strongly supports the nationwide hotline.

“It’s incredibly exciting because for years crisis services and suicide prevention services have been unrecognized and undervalued,” Andrews said.

Andrews said Behavioral Health Response is 1 of 160 agencies that currently supports the national suicide hotline and will continue to do so after the 9-8-8 number goes into effect.

“You make it easier for people to call you, get more calls, which is what we want,” Andrews said. We want to make it easier for people in crisis to reach out.”

He said some people having a mental crisis have been calling 9-1-1, now they will have 9-8-8 which gets them directly to the person they need.

“We don’t need law enforcement and ambulances responding to most behavior health crises. By calling 9-8-8, you’re going to get a trained clinician who knows how to help you,” Andrews said.

In the future, you may also need to reprogram devices that use a phone line including fax machines, fire, burglar or security alarm systems, and speed dialers.

If you try to use only seven digits in late October, you’ll get a recording telling you to dial all ten.

The change is necessary to make the new 9-8-8 system work nationwide