You may have heard about the national hotline 988 intended to provide easy access to help for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis in much the same way that 911 connects people to emergency services.

The three-digit number will take over for the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — which will also continue to be available at 800-273-8255 — but with an expanded mission. In addition to offering support to people at risk of suicide, the hotline is designed to aid those facing all sorts of mental health crises or any kind of emotional distress.

Kim Musheno, vice president of public policy at the Autism Society of America, said she and other advocates are optimistic that 988 will benefit people with autism and other developmental disabilities, many of whom have co-occurring mental health conditions. “We view this as a positive step in the right direction,” she said. “People with autism who are in a mental health crisis often have nowhere to turn. This often results in a call to the police or taking the individual to a hospital. Neither is appropriate. 988 will, hopefully, be better than calling 911 when there is a mental health emergency,” Musheno added.

The longer term hope is 988 will link those in crisis to community-based providers — who can deliver a full range of crisis care services. This is essential to meeting crisis needs across the nation.”

But disability advocates say more work is needed for 988 to meet its potential. Both the Autism Society and The Arc are pushing officials behind the new line to mandate a national training curriculum for 988 call center staff so that they know how to respond appropriately to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They’re also calling for better investment in community-based infrastructure to respond to people in crisis and training for mental health professionals and first responders in serving people with developmental disabilities.