Landmark Mental Health AB-988 Bill Passes Assembly this Month

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    Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s (D-Orinda) mental health emergency crisis response legislation, AB 988, termed “landmark” by her staff, passed off the Assembly floor June 3 with a vote of 70-0. This “Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act” follows two other Bauer-Kahan justice reform bills, AB 731 and AB 624, which passed through the assembly the prior week.
    AB 988 will implement statewide the new nationwide 9-8-8 Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Hotline created last year by the Federal Communications Commission and Congress. The new system will provide an alternative to 911. It aims to deploy mental health professionals, rather than police officers, in situations of mental health crises and address systemic inequalities according to the author.
    “We need to finally rethink and redesign how we respond to those in mental health crisis,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “AB 988 fundamentally changes our approach by putting care and training ahead of confrontation and arrest. It is poignant this bill passed the Assembly on the two-year anniversary of the tragic death of Miles Hall.”
    The Miles Hall Lifeline Act is named for Miles Hall, a 23-year-old Black man, shot and killed by officers in 2019 while suffering from a mental health crisis. In the case of serious public safety threats, the bill does stipulate mobile crisis teams and law enforcement would work in tandem to deescalate the situation.
    Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan partnered with the Steinberg Institute, The Kennedy Forum, Contra Costa County, NAMI of Contra Costa County, and the Miles Hall Foundation in introducing the bill.
    Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, The Steinberg Institute’s founder, said “Law enforcement should not be expected to be experts in mental health. This legislation is a critical piece of a broader effort to decriminalize mental illness.”
    AB 988 is currently in policy committees before moving to the senate fiscal committee. If cleared, it would go to the senate floor for a vote and back to the assembly for a concurrence vote on any amendments made in the senate. The bill has until Sept. 10 to be cleared by the legislature with final action from the Governor no later than Oct. 10.

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