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LA County Board approves improvements to Los Angles County’s mental health crisis lines

Hahn said her proposals aim to improve unarmed response to mental health crises

OW Staff Writer | 2/23/2021, 4:24 p.m.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve two proposals...
Janice Hahn

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve two proposals by Supervisor Janice Hahn on Tuesday, to improve LA County’s response to calls about threats of suicide and mental health crises.

The first motion directs the County to co-sponsor the Miles Hall Lifeline Act - otherwise known as AB 988. This motion is coauthored by Hahn and Supervisor Kathryn Barger. AB 988 begins the process of designating “9-8-8” as the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Hotline Phone Number and will help enable non-law enforcement mental health professional response to mental health crises. The nationwide 988 system is set to be in place by summer 2022.

“When someone calls for help during a mental health crisis, we need to make sure that they can get the help they need from trained mental health professionals,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “9-8-8 is going to be a game changer when it comes online next year as the nationwide mental health crisis line, but in the meantime, we can save lives by improving our own mental health crisis response in LA County. By connecting our Didi Hirsch suicide hotline with our teams of unarmed mental health professionals who can rollout to respond, we can get people in crisis the help they need and save lives.”

The second motion takes action now to prevent suicide in LA County. The Didi Hirsch counselors who operate the suicide prevention hotline used in LA County are specifically trained to provide emotional support over the phone to people in suicidal crisis. However, they don’t have the ability to dispatch psychiatric mobile response units. The second motion connects Didi Hirsch’s suicide prevention counselors to the LA County Department of Mental Health Help Line so that they can dispatch mobile response teams with trained mental health professionals to assist a person experiencing a mental health crisis in-person. Similarly, it allows the LA County Help Line to route calls to Didi Hirsch when the caller needs extensive suicide prevention counseling.

"The Department of Mental Health salutes the Board for relentless efforts to help the County and its departments streamline complex processes and push for systems reform broadly,” said Director of the LA County Department of Mental Health Jonathon Sherin. “The consolidation of our crisis response functions through the ACR initiative and the support for a dedicated Crisis Line (aka 988) in collaboration with our key partner, Didi Hirsch, are emblematic of our leadership and commitment to actions that make progress possible."

“As the nation’s premiere Suicide Prevention Center, Didi Hirsch is thrilled to streamline how youth and adults across our county access trauma-informed crisis supports and mental health care, in partnership with the LA County Department of Mental Health, LAPD and LA Sherriff’s Department,” said Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Goldfinger, MD, MPH, FAAP. “The State of California and nation are watching these cutting-edge models meeting community needs, with 988 and 911 call diversion rolling out together.”