If you've got a number with an 856 or 908 area code, or know someone who does, this is important information about a big change that is coming soon.

The FCC is introducing a new 3-digit dialing code, 988, in conjunction with the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline. The current number for those in crisis is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

988 will act just like 911 for those who have a mental health emergency. I support this change one hundred percent. The easier it is for those who need to talk to someone when they are in crisis the better.

While 988 won't go live until July 16, 2022, anyone looking to dial a phone number with an 856 or 908 area code will soon have to start dialing all the numbers, including area code, for example: 1-908-555-1234. The mandatory change goes into effect on Oct. 24, 2021. After that time, if you do not dial the area code and phone number, you will get a recording reminding you of the change.

As my colleague, Boris points out, who really dials numbers anymore? Most of us have our contacts saved on our phones. We barely know our own phone numbers thanks to technology. The point is, all of those numbers with 856 and 908 area codes will have to be reprogrammed or edited on your phone in order for it to go through. Yes, stored contacts with the 856 and 908 area codes will also need to use the full-number format come late October of this year.

It's not just telephone numbers, though. Verizon is telling customers to remember to change 856 and 908 numbers programmed into safety systems and medical monitoring devices, PBXs, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, fire and burglar alarm systems, speed dial buttons, call forwarding settings, voicemail services, and other automatic services.

Just a friendly heads up. At least we have plenty of time to edit our contacts. While it may be an inconvenience, just remember that this is being done to save lives.

Spread the word about 988 coming next year. But, remember that if you or someone you know is in crisis, you must reach the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Listen to Matt Ryan afternoons on 94.3 The Point.

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