man on phone

The FCC has adopted a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes the use of georouting to enable the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to route calls to behavioral health resources near where the distressed person is instead of to those in the area code and exchange used by their device.

The key would be to enable such routing without compromising the privacy requirements of such calls.

As the FCC noted, a person in distress in California calling the 988 Lifeline would be linked to resources in Virginia if the device used has a Virginia area code. The FCC wants the system to change in such a way that the person would be connected to mental health resources near where he or she is in California.

Doing this while preserving the privacy of the caller requires georouting solutions that enable “calls to be routed based on the location of the caller without transmitting the caller’s precise location information.” Cell tower information rather than device area code would be used.

Such a step also makes the system more efficient, the FCC said.

“Proponents of georouting claim that routing individuals to local crisis centers allows counselors to better respond to unique factors and situations, which may also help avoid unnecessary use of emergency services and law enforcement,” the FCC said.

The 988 Lifeline was instituted in 2020. Today’s Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was the result of “coordinated efforts” by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The initial Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) on a georouting requirement was issued in March.

Another step towards increasing the effectiveness of the 988 system was taken last July. The FCC adopted rules requiring service providers with a role in the system to report outages that could affect service, thus hastening restoration.

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