By Sebastian Squire
Graphic By Jennifer Notman
On February 18, 2021, the Miles Hall Lifeline Act, designated California Bill AB 988, was introduced into the State Assembly. The bill was authored by 16th district representative Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, whose district includes Walnut Creek, Orinda, Livermore, and Danville, among other places. Additionally, assembly members Berman, Chiu, Quirk-Silva, and Ting introduced the bill. The crux of the bill is the establishment of a hotline for individuals undergoing mental health emergencies to be used as an alternative to dialing emergency hotline 9-1-1. This bill comes after increased awareness of police officers killing individuals in mental health crises, rather than de-escalating the situation.
The bill is named for Miles Hall, a 23-year-old Walnut Creek resident and Las Lomas graduate who was killed by police on June 2, 2019, amid a mental health emergency. According to a joint press release by Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan and the Kennedy Forum, an organization that sponsored the legislation, the bill “will connect people calling or texting 988 with trained counselors and dispatch mobile crisis support teams – staffed by mental health professionals and trained peers instead of police officers – to help a person in crisis.” Police officers have a history of using disproportionate force in situations involving mentally ill individuals, especially towards individuals of color. Additionally, the bill allows operators on the 9-1-1 hotline to refer people to the 9-8-8 hotline and for operators of the 9-8-8 hotline to coordinate police, fire, and other emergency crews if necessary. A key goal of the bill is to address “systemic inequities in our mental health system by decriminalizing our response to mental health, dismantling a major source of systemic injustice and addressing a major driver of homelessness,” according to the press release. Per the bill, These changes would go into effect “beginning January 1, 2023, and not later than January 1, 2024,” assuming the legislation passes.