9-8-8 in Georgia Overview: Updated Overview Sheet

9-8-8 Initial Fact Sheet- REVISED

as of May 3 2022

  • PDF designed for double-sided printing is attached below

What is 9-8-8?  

9-8-8 is the new number to dial for those experiencing suicidal thoughts or a substance use or mental health crisis. It is emerging as the 9-1-1 of behavioral health. It is one of the largest federally mandated crisis response transformations in decades, and, much like the rollout of 9-1-1, it will take years of capacity building to fulfill the vision of 9-8-8.

Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is leading the planning process and implementation of 9-8-8 in Georgia.  

Moving to a 3-digit dialing code is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen and expand the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Establishing 9-8-8 for suicide prevention and behavioral health crises will make it easier for Georgians in crisis to access the help they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health.  


Georgia’s Rollout  

The 9-8-8 dialing code   is now available for calls and texts. Callers are connected to a trained staff member who can help address immediate needs and connect the callers to care resources, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  

We know that eventually 9-8-8 will become as commonly used as 9-1-1, providing appropriate mental health crisis responses for all Georgians. While 9-1-1 began in the 1960’s, it took thirty years to cover 93% of the U.S. population and it continues to evolve. We are taking lessons learned from 9-1-1 implementation: building capacity and staffing over time, with a focus on technology and infrastructure. 

We expect call volumes to be higher than ever before and we are working to build capacity to serve this increased demand at a time when the healthcare industry is facing workforce shortages and other unprecedented challenges.

DBHDD’s planning coalition has been meeting since April of 2021 to prepare for the July 16, 2022, rollout. The committee is made up of healthcare professionals and providers, law enforcement, 9-1-1 officials, policy makers, individuals with lived experience and behavioral health advocates.



In the 20 months it had to prepare for the rollout of 9-8-8, Georgia invested $20.5 million—a combination of appropriations from the General Assembly and federal COVID-relief funds—in 9-8-8 related expenditures. However, as projections call for 9-8-8 to double call volume to Georgia’s Crisis and Access Line, building capacity to meet the demand will require years of investments to ensure Georgians who seek help through the line receive a robust mental health response. The federal legislation mandating 9-8-8 allows states to implement monthly fees on telecommunications bills to pay for 9-8-8-related expenditures. While a few states chose that option in advance of the launch, Georgia leveraged one-time COVID-relief funds and available state dollars to prepare for the launch. In the days ahead, Georgia will continually monitor call volume to project the actual impact of 9-8-8 on Georgia’s crisis infrastructure and evaluate how best to approach long-term investments in this decade-long transformation of Georgia’s crisis infrastructure.


9-8-8 Matters  

Georgia ranks 31st in suicide deaths in the United States, and from from 2019-2020, Georgia experienced an 8.3% increase in rural suicides. During the COVID-19 pandemic, from April 2020 to April 2021, Georgia has seen a 36% increase in overdose deaths.  

The gradual rollout of 9-8-8 can eventually become a critical tool to address our state’s mental health crisis needs. Current projections suggest that the implementation of 9-8-8 will increase call center volumes by as much as 100% by the end of the first year.  

Georgians will continue to have access to GCAL (1-800-715-4225) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year to help anyone in crisis. This will not change with the ongoing implementation of 9-8-8.  


GCAL Professionals Provide:  

  • Crisis Intervention Services over the phone  
  • The ability to dispatch mobile crisis teams  
  • Assistance to individuals in finding an open crisis or detox bed across Georgia 
  • A way to link individuals with urgent appointment services  

About 10% of calls to GCAL end with the person in crisis being taken to a mental health facility for their safety.  


9-8-8 vs. 9-1-1  

9-8-8 was established to improve access to mental health crisis services. 9-8-8 will provide easier access, distinct from 9-1-1, which focuses on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police as needed.   


Reimagining Crisis Response with 9-8-8  

The time is now for policymakers, healthcare providers, law enforcement and behavioral health advocates to build on this opportunity to reimagine how Georgia responds to people in mental health, substance use, and suicide crisis.   

  • 9-8-8 will help to connect a person in a mental health crisis to a trained professional responder, who can address their immediate needs and help connect them to ongoing care.  
  • 9-8-8 will reduce the use of law enforcement, public health and other safety resources to address mental health and substance use crises   


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