CSAC Bulletin Article

9-8-8 Crisis Line Closer to Reality in California

September 9, 2021

The legislative vehicle to implement a statewide 9-8-8 behavioral health crisis line, AB 988 by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, may be dead, but Governor Newsom is keeping California on track to meet the July 2022 federal deadline for implementation by earmarking $20 million for the project.

With an anticipated 300 percent increase in calls expected next summer with the debut of 9-8-8, the $20 million state investment will filter to existing suicide crisis lines for workforce investments, training, and capacity expansion.

The sponsors of AB 988, including The Steinberg Institute, The Kennedy Forum, California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies, Contra Costa County, Mental Health America of California, the Miles Hall Foundation, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of California, have vowed to work with stakeholders to craft another implementation bill for introduction in January.

CSAC, along with the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California, raised significant concerns with AB 988 throughout the legislative process this year, including whether adequate and sustainable funding was attainable, how capacity expansions will occur, and the role of Counties in the behavioral health crisis continuum. Additional issues included questions about sufficient rural access, interfacing with 911, and liability issues.

CSAC and Counties strongly support the implementation of a robust 9-8-8 system in the state that builds upon County expertise and investments in the local crisis continuum. Counties must play a key role in the rollout of the crisis lines and any increase or expansion of services associated with 9-8-8.

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