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Yes, '988' may send police to your home in certain circumstances

Experts say calling 911 is always the last resort for counselors

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The '988' mental health hotline launched nationwide this weekend and connects callers with a mental health professional. 

Since the '988' hotline went live there have been claims circulating online like this one: 

Credit: WFMY


Will the police be dispatched to your house when you call '988'? 


Whealton says when someone calls '988' they're connected to a trained mental health professional. That person will talk with the caller to determine their needs. She says they can also connect the caller to multiple trained counselors in the area. 

"That is a team of trained mental health therapists who can either talk to you on the phone or come to where you are and engage with you listen to you and identify what the immediate crisis is," Whealton said. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, says the lifeline does not currently use geolocation. They say the Lifeline currently automatically routes calls by area code to the nearest crisis center.

SAMHSA Senior Medical Advisor John Palmieri said, "at SAMHSA and across the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline network, we are dedicated to the health and well-being of all callers in crisis, and we are grateful to all the crisis counselors who answer the 988 Lifeline with compassion and care."

"It is important to note that fewer than 2% of calls to the 988 Lifeline require an emergency response, and most of those are done with the consent and cooperation of the caller," Palmieri said. "We want anyone who calls, texts, or chats 988 to know that they are not required to provide any personal information to talk to a trained counselor. Those who contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can expect compassionate, accessible care and support for their mental health-related needs – whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis or any other kind of emotional distress.”

SAMHSA said in more than half of the two percent of calls when 911 is contacted, the caller asked the counselor or agreed for the counselor to contact 911.

In the less than two percent of calls when 911 is contacted without consent, SAMHSA said the person is determined to be unwilling or unable to take action to remain safe. That includes active suicide attempts and/or stated intent to use weapons or other lethal means with the intent to cause imminent harm or death.

"I don't think the person who answers the phone with send police unless they felt like you were in immediate danger of hurting yourself or somebody else," Whealton said. 


Yes, if you call '988' police may be dispatched to your house but it is under specific circumstances and is rare. 

SAMHSA said, "while some safety and health issues may warrant a response from law enforcement and/or Emergency Medical Services (namely when a suicide attempt is in progress), the 988 coordinated response is intended to promote stabilization and care in the least restrictive manner."

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