Rebecca bauer kahan

Rebecca Bauer-Kahan

A bill introduced in the California Assembly last week would establish “988” as a statewide mental-health crisis call number and require counties to provide mobile crisis teams as an alternative to law enforcement.

AB988, introduced by Assembly Member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D), whose district includes the Tri-Valley, would require the Office of Emergency Services to establish at least one mental health crisis call center by July 2022.

The bill would also require counties to coordinate with the state mental health crisis call center and provide crisis services, including mobile crisis response teams, to anyone calling 988.

The bill would require that calls to 911 reporting a mental health crisis be transferred to a crisis center staffed by mental health counselors who can dispatch mobile crisis support teams, instead of police officers. Operators for 911 and 988 call centers would be able to coordinate their response if a medical, fire or law enforcement response was required.

The Federal Communications Commission last year designated 988 as a national telephone number for suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotlines.

“The current system relies on law enforcement and confinement and puts people suffering from mental illness through an expensive and traumatizing revolving-door as they shuttle between jails, emergency rooms, and the street,” said Bauer-Kahan. “A comprehensive crisis response system can help prevent these tragedies, save money, and increase access to the right kind of care. We must make significant changes in how we respond to those suffering from a mental health crisis.”

The mental health crisis centers and mobile response teams would be paid for through a surcharge on all in-state telephone calls.

The bill, which had 21 Democratic co-sponsors, is expected to be heard in committee next month. No Republicans had signed on to the bill.