COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – Starting July 16, you can dial 9-8-8 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The 10-digit number, 1-800-273-8255, will remain an option.

Mental Health of America Greenville County operates South Carolina’s only Lifeline call center. Director of Crisis Intervention Services Kathy Eckart said they have been preparing for this transition.

“It’s enhancing that continuum of care. This adds on the mobile crisis unit which already exists and stabilization units with the continuum of care,” Eckart said.

Any call to the national hotline from a South Carolina area code is directed to their call center. Recently, they’ve been able to answer more than 80% of calls for months now.

Eckart said they’re anticipating call volume to increase 4 to 10 times more than usual after 988 goes online. Their staffing levels will remain mostly unchanged due to a lack of sustainable state funding they said.

According to Eckart, there’s a chance a higher percentage of calls to the national lifeline will be answered by someone outside of South Carolina. “It will be routed to a state not familiar with our state resources, our state policies and things like that. We prefer to be able to answer them all in this state.”

Eckart said there is also concern about an increase in wait times. When the call is routed to a backup center, it could take a little longer for that call to be answered.

She had this message for those seeking help. “If you take this step to get help — stick with it. People will be there for you.”

Mental Health America of Greenville County has been working to land grants and has started a fundraiser to bring on more staff.

They said they’ve raised about 30% of last year’s funds.

In this year’s state budget, South Carolina lawmakers set aside $1.3 million for a second 988 call center in the Palmetto State. The state Department of Mental Health said they expect to have that up and running in early 2023.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 988 starting Saturday.