This will allow police to avoid unnecessary confrontations and act as an alternative to 911.
Jonathan Murillo (23 years old) was shot to death by Los Angeles Police just moments before the arrival of mental healthcare specialists, who were sent to address reports of an assault at the site.
According to police, a family member had reported that Murillo was armed and carrying a knife.
Advocates and lawmakers hope to avoid the same fatal interaction Murillo had in his encounter with police by creating a national hotline for mental health crises. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (number 800-273-TALK (8255), is now known as 988. This is a way to decrease violent and fatal interactions between law enforcement officers and people with mental illness.
Although the 988 hotline was supposed to be expanded by July 1, Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) realized that not all cities have sufficient resources to implement it effectively by July after Murillo died near his district.
To address this challenge, Cardenas introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday. This will provide additional federal funding to states and help them create crisis response systems that rely on mental health professionals, not armed officers, to meet their needs.
Cardenas stated that 988 will be the same as 911, but for mental health and for drug addicts and suicide contemplators. The ideal situation is for states to start implementing resources and funding to keep it running every day, week, month, and year just as local communities did with 911.
He said, "At the other time, 988 is there to ensure that we have a psychiatrist to be there, take that call and respond, and to make certain that somebody comes out." "And then, if they require long-term help, that there is some place for them to go."
According to the Washington Post database, more than one in five people who are killed by police officers have mental illness. At least 1,569 people suffering from mental illness have been fatally shot by police since 2015.
Donald Trump, then-President, signed a bipartisan bill into law before he left office in 2020. It replaced the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by a mental health emergency number that is similar to 911.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) first introduced the bill that made the 988 crisis hotline for mental health a reality. He said it was a crucial step towards destigmatizing mental illness and making care more accessible.
He is now co-sponsoring Cardenas’ bill to improve implementation of the hotline.
Moulton stated that the United States faces a mental crisis, which was made worse by two years' worth of trauma-induced pandemics. "We are long overdue in providing this service for Americans who need a safe, reliable and free place to go during their mental health emergencies.
According to Cardenas' office, the 988 line is coming at a time when suicide rates are up by 33 percent, especially among young people during Covid-19.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), whose 25-year old son Tommy, committed suicide one week prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection. He stated in a statement that he was "proud" to introduce the 988 Implementation Act, which will provide a lifeline for those in most dire times.
According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated mental illness are also 16-times more likely to die in police custody . According to a study published in , the official journal of The National Academy of Sciences, this risk is higher for people of color , particularly young Black and Indigenous peoples, as well Hispanic men, who are more likely to be killed by the police than white people.
"We spend 23 percent more per call when it's for a mental health emergency, but we shouldn't send out paramedics or the police." Cardenas stated that we should send out a mental healthcare professional. This will save taxpayers money over the long-term and it's going be a lifesaver.
He said, "Families will not be in distress or in stress because there are better outcomes for all."
Isaias Cervantes (25), was shot and paralysed in his district by a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy. Cardenas stated that he was left paralysed "within 40 seconds" of police entering the house.
According to the Los Angeles County Office of Inspector General, Cervantes had allegedly assaulted his mother as well as a crisis counselor who was helping him with his mental issues. Deputies said Cervantes had attacked his mother and a crisis counselor while trying to take the firearm from the officer's holster.
The Los Angeles County Office of Inspector General determined that no team of mental health experts was asked to respond to the emergency call. It was coded as an urgent family disturbance call, and not as a call about mental health. Cervantes requested that he be taken to the hospital.
It was a horrible outcome. It shouldn't have happened. Cardenas stated that 988 will make these outcomes worse.
According to the office of the congressman, the bill was deemed "a priority" by the White House's Unity Agenda. This agenda includes policies that have historically received support from both Republicans as well as Democrats. According to the office, appropriating committees look forward to "following up with funding."
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Republican from Pennsylvania), who is also the co-chair for the Bipartisan Addictions and Mental Health Taskforce, also supported the bill. He stated that "now more than ever it is imperative we provide crucial support to and expand resources for millions of people struggling with mental illness in our country."
Cardenas stated that the new bill includes language to help harness mental health insurance coverage through Medicaid and require all health insurance plans cover crisis services.
It also includes a roadmap to promote mental health care jobs by supporting crisis workforce developer with increased funding for training and scholarship opportunities as well as accessibility to non-English speaking people.