1,000 signatures reached
To: Members of the California State Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom
Take Action to Decriminalize California’s Emergency Response to Mental Health Crises
Urge California Lawmakers to Pass AB 988 (Bauer-Kahan), also known the Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act, to designate “988” as the new three-digit alternative to “911” for mental health emergencies, ensuring that trained mental health professionals – not law enforcement – respond to those in crisis.
Why is this important?
For decades, California has underfunded mental health services. As a result, the criminal justice system often serves as the state’s default mental health provider, with jails and prisons filled with people suffering from mental illness. In addition, an estimated 10% of law enforcement agencies’ budgets – and 20% of staff time – are spent responding to individuals with mental illness.
A direct consequence of our overreliance on law enforcement responses to mental health crises is that almost a quarter of all people killed in police-involved shootings since 2015 had a known mental illness, with black men dying at a disproportionate rate. Between when Derek Chauvin’s trial started and his conviction for the murder of George Floyd, 64 people died at the hands of police. More than a dozen of them had a known mental illness or were in the throes of a mental health crisis.
In 2019, Miles Hall, a 23-year-old black man living in Walnut Creek, was in the midst of a schizophrenic mental health crisis when his family called 911 for help. Despite being familiar with Miles’ condition, the officers resorted to lethal force within a minute of their arrival.
Law enforcement officers are not mental health experts and should not be expected to serve this role. A better system for Miles and all Californians is possible – one that leads with treatment, not law enforcement.
Last year, the federal government established “988” as the new 3-digit alternative to 911 for mental health crises. Callers to 988 will be connected with around-the-clock support, including mobile crisis teams that can respond to the scene with trained mental health professionals and peers rather than law enforcement. If California does not act now, the state will lose critical federal support and funding.
Please urge California lawmakers to pass, and Governor Gavin Newsom to sign, Assembly Bill 988 (Bauer-Kahan) – also known as the Miles Hall Lifeline Act – to implement the 988 system in California and take concrete steps to reduce shootings where mental health is involved. AB 988 will ensure that we respond to a health crisis with a health response.