(Sacramento) In the final days of National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, Governor Newsom has signed the Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act, Assembly Bill 988. This legislation will transform the way California responds to mental health emergencies to ensure those in crisis receive the urgent care they need. The new law provides critical funding and a framework for the long-term implementation of the 988 crisis services continuum to ensure everyone has someone to call, someone to come, and somewhere to go.
Authored by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), AB 988 implements federal legislation passed in 2020 establishing a new national phone line for suicide prevention and mental health and substance use disorder crises. The bill passed the legislature with strong bipartisan support.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline was launched nationwide in July, giving people in crisis an easy-to-remember number that connects them with counselors. Fully implemented, call centers can connect people calling dispatch mobile crisis support teams – staffed by mental health professionals and trained peers — to help a person in crisis. Critical to the transformation is reducing the role of law enforcement in crisis response. A recent study found that at least 1 in 4 fatal law enforcement encounters involves an individual with serious mental illness.
The Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act is named for Miles Hall, a 23-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by police officers in 2019 during a mental health crisis.
Key elements of AB 988 include:
* Sustained funding for crisis centers and mobile response: To create an effective crisis response system that every Californian has universal and reliable access to, the bill creates a permanent and sustainable funding source. AB 988 introduces a small telephone surcharge, as permitted in federal 988 legislation, set at only $0.08 per line per month for the first two years with a lifetime cap of $0.30 per line per month. The federal 988 legislation left it to individual states to implement and fund the new line, and many states continue to face funding challenges. California is only the fifth state to implement a 988 phone line surcharge.
* Coordinated implementation and long-term planning: AB 988 tasks the Office of Emergency Services (OES) with creating a technical advisory board at OES to inform the integration of 988 and 911. AB 988 also tasks the Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) with developing a 5-year implementation plan for 988.
AB 988 is sponsored by the Steinberg Institute, The Kennedy Forum, Los Angeles County, Contra Costa County, Mental Health America of California, NAMI California, the Miles Hall Foundation, and NAMI of Contra Costa County.
“AB 988 will save lives. We’ve spent years bringing together the incredible advocates, stakeholders, and the families of survivors to build a better mental health system. 988 will fundamentally restructure our crisis response to put care first.”
Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan – (D-Orinda)
“Once again California shows how we lead the way in our commitment to mental health. Now that AB988 is law, the new 988 crisis line will have sustained funding and a plan that ensures that people get the critical help they need. Most importantly, we are going to end California’s crisis response patchwork that has too often had tragic results. Thank you, Governor Newsom, for recognizing this opportunity and signing this legislation.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg – Founder, Steinberg Institute
“Ensuring an appropriate, non-law enforcement response to mental health crises benefits both the individual and the community. People deserve trained, clinical assistance and connections to mental health and/or addiction care. Too many families, including the Hall family, have endured unspeakable tragedy because of our blanket response to crisis in this country. AB 988 must set a nationwide precedent for change.”
Patrick J. Kennedy – Former U.S. Representative and founder of The Kennedy Forum
“By signing AB988 into law families like those I work with every day will be able to sleep more peacefully. They will be able to breathe easier knowing their loved one that lives with mental illness will have a lower risk of harm and likely an improved health outcomes when experiencing a mental health emergency. “
Gigi R. Crowder, L.E. – Executive Director, NAMI Contra Costa
“We wish this legislation was in place when my son, Miles Hall needed help in a mental health emergency. This bill will save lives and we are glad the leadership in California understands the urgency in proactive mental health care.”
Taun Hall – Executive Director, Miles Hall Foundation
“Mental Health America of California would like to thank Governor Newsom, Assemblymember Bauer-Kahn and all the statewide partners who we are honored to have collaborated with in the passing of AB 988. This bill will, without a doubt, save lives. We are grateful the bill takes steps toward safely supporting individuals and families who may not otherwise know how or where to access supports and services.”
Heidi L. Strunk – President & CEO, Mental Health America of California
“We are pleased that our sponsored bill AB 988, the Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act, was signed into law by Governor Newsom, ensuring that people across the state will have what Contra Costa County has worked hard to create: immediate, localized emergency response by trained mental health professionals through a comprehensive crisis response system that can help prevent avoidable tragedies and increase access to care.”
Board Chair Karen Mitchoff – District IV Supervisor, Contra Costa County
“The current mental health crisis response system relies on law enforcement and puts people suffering from mental illness through an expensive and traumatizing revolving-door as they shuttle between jails, emergency rooms, and the street. A comprehensive crisis response system can prevent these tragedies, save money, and increase access to appropriate care. Signing AB 988, the Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act is an important first step and we are so thankful that Governor Newsom has signed it!”
Jessica Cruz – CEO, National Alliance on Mental Illness-California (NAMI-CA)
“The adoption of AB 988 transforms the way behavioral health crisis assistance is provided to anyone who needs it, anytime of the day. With the implementation plan for 988, California is well on its way to delivering the responsive continuum of care that our most vulnerable citizens deserve. In L.A. County, this translates to reinforcing 988 call center services while continuing to work hard to increase the number of psychiatric mobile response teams and stabilization services to ensure that people get the kind of care they need, when they need it.”
Dr. Lisa Wong – L.A. County Department of Mental Health
About The Kennedy Forum
Through The Kennedy Forum, Patrick and Amy Kennedy lead a national dialogue to achieve systemic reform in the U.S. healthcare system by advancing evidence-based practices, policies, and programming for the prevention and treatment of brain illnesses — specifically mental health and addiction. Founded in 2013, we have proven our unique ability to unite mental health advocates, business leaders, health plans, and government agencies. In the last decade we have already improved access to care for people managing brain illnesses by filling a solutions void at both the grassroots and systems level. To learn more about The Kennedy Forum, please visit www.thekennedyforum.org.