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SD: A Little Extra Phone Effort Will Help a Lot in Suicide Prevention

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Friday, April 16, 2021   

PIERRE, S.D. - While it might seem like a nuisance, a looming requirement for local phone calls in South Dakota is being phased in as part of a public service.

The state's Public Utilities Commission is asking residents to incorporate South Dakota's lone area code of 605 when making a local call, even though it's not required just yet.

That will change over the next year when dialing all ten digits will be necessary as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to establish 988 as the dial code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

PUC Chairman Chris Nelson said some local lines start with those numbers, making the extra step crucial. He encouraged people to embrace it now.

"A lot of us have numbers pre-programmed into our phones, and so that ten digits is already being dialed," said Nelson. "But for those of us that aren't, that's something that we're going to have to begin getting used to."

The phase-in of the requirement begins in October, depending on your provider, and will be finalized by next summer. The transition is affecting area codes across three dozen states.

Because of its rural backdrop, South Dakota has long existed with its one area code, making shorter dialing routine for most residents. But Nelson said he hopes the state gets behind the movement so the national project can help save lives.

"We see this as something that can hopefully be a resource to intervene when people are in those crisis moments," said Nelson.

To make the transition easier, he suggested people double check any pre-programmed numbers in their home phones or alarm systems in case they don't have the embedded area code.

The national prevention line has served through a "1-800" set-up. But the FCC recently adopted plans for 988 to make it easier to remember.




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