Dialing Changes to Allow New Three-Digit Number for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Will Impact Two Virginia Area Codes


DEC 14, 2020

RICHMOND – The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) is a critical emergency resource and can be reached, day or night, at 800-273-8255. Starting in July 2022, the NSPL will also be getting its own three-digit dialing number – 988 – as approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this year. Dialing 988 will therefore directly reach the NSPL.

Before that can happen, dialing changes will be necessary in two Virginia area codes – 804 and 276 – starting in late April 2021.

In the Richmond region (area code 804) and the Southwest Virginia region (area code 276), 988 is an existing working prefix (i.e., the first three numbers dialed after the area code) for local exchanges in those area codes that currently permit seven-digit dialing to make a local call. To prepare for 988 becoming a national number for the NSPL, 10-digit dialing (area code + phone number) will be required to make local calls in those two geographic regions.

Virginia is not alone. There are 81 area codes in 36 other states that must also prepare for 10-digit dialing to accommodate the 988 national number roll-out.

The State Corporation Commission, the FCC and the telephone industry will be reminding consumers of this change in the 804 and 276 area codes over the next 18 months. The timeline for implementation is as follows:

  • April 24, 2021 – permissive 10-digit dialing begins for all local calls
  • October 24, 2021 – mandatory 10-digit dialing required for all local calls
  • July 16, 2022 – 988 for NSPL is active

Very little else will change for telephone users inside the 804 and 276 area codes. The NSPL is – and will always be – available at 1-800-273-8255. Other three-digit services – like 211, 711, 811, and 911 – are not affected. Telephone numbers, coverage areas, local call boundaries, and area code numbers remain the same.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that roughly four percent of Virginia adults live with serious mental health conditions. While the holiday season brings joy and relaxation to some, it also may mean stress and sadness for others. During the holiday season and beyond, it is particularly crucial to be aware of available mental health resources such as the NSPL hotline (800-273-8255) and suicidepreventionlifeline.org. As always, 911 is available for emergency situations.

For more information about phone service changes regarding the NSPL’s upcoming 988 number, visit the FCC website at fcc.gov/suicide-prevention-hotline.


Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141