In 2019, the FCC proposed the creation of a three-digit number to be used if one was in mental health crisis or contemplating suicide. The following year, Congress passed the National Hotline Designation Act, setting aside 9-8-8 as the national hotline.

9-8-8 was designed to lessen the load on 9-1-1 by putting those with mental health crises in touch with mental health experts rather than law enforcement. North Carolinians who call 9-8-8 while in mental health crisis will be routed to a state call center operated by Real Crisis Intervention. The caller will be connected with a crisis counselor who will try to de-escalate the crisis and, if necessary, can call on the services of a mobile crisis team.

While many states do not have a fully developed plan for the launch, North Carolina is scheduled to be ready for the July 16 roll-out. NAMI North Carolina believes a robust 9-8-8 program is an important step not only in allowing persons in mental health crisis to get the help they need, but also to increase the safety of these persons, who are far more likely to be killed in confrontations with law enforcement than those not in crisis.