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Dialing 9-8-8 already connects callers to Falmouth crisis center

Callers can also text 9-8-8 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline ahead of the code's national launch. Counselors answer at the Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands. The Falmouth center is hiring more.

FALMOUTH—The 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which launches nationwide July 16 for people experiencing emotional distress, already routes local callers to the crisis center here.

Congress two years ago established the dialing code to improve access to mental-health services and connect calls and texts to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands is among the country's 200 independent crisis centers working to end suicide. The nonprofit is hiring more counselors to answer lifeline calls.

Dying by suicide is the 10th leading cause in the United States, with 48,344 in 2018, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Many who need help often don’t seek support until they require emergency care, says Bart Main, a child psychiatrist with Cape Cod Healthcare Centers for Behavioral Health.

"They've known that they were having trouble for a long time before that but they don't do anything about it until it becomes a crisis, and that's what we want to try to prevent," Main tells CAI. "I wish that I knew a better way to give people permission to acknowledge their distress earlier."

Main says Cape Cod Healthcare's primary care clinics screen all patients for symptoms of depression, regardless of the reason for the medical visit.

Funding for the 9-8-8 workforce is provided through the American Rescue Plan. Callers can remain anonymous.

Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.