9-8-8 offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to decouple policing from a mental health crisis.
9-8-8 is a safety net for people experiencing a mental health emergency. Once 9-8-8 goes live, if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, experiencing delusions, or displaying severe symptoms of mental illness, you should call 9-8-8 instead of 911.
9-8-8 is not only about answering calls—it’s also about making appropriate and accessible referrals, creating a system that connects people to a continuum of care at critical moments.
The nation’s upcoming transition to a three-digit crisis line (9-8-8) in July 2022 provides Alabama with the unique opportunity to fully integrate and intentionally align the state’s crisis system design and service delivery – linking individuals directly to critical services with someone to call, someone to respond, and somewhere to go. All three core components of crisis services must be in place for Alabama to successfully stand up 9-8-8.
- Someone to call: 9-8-8
- Someone to respond: Mobile Crisis Services
- Somewhere to go: Crisis Centers including temporary and extended observation (AltaPointe Behavioral Health Crisis Center, WellStone Emergency Services, and Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority Crisis Center)
9-8-8 will be an essential element of the Alabama Crisis System of Crisis Care, linking an individual in a crisis to the resources in their community, in an efficient, accessible way. Fully implemented, 9-8-8 will help to reduce avoidable emergency department or hospital admissions for people in crisis and avoid traumatic, often deadly, engagements with the criminal justice system.
The Commission shall consider all the following:
- How twenty-four-seven statewide coverage for 9-8-8 calls, chats, and texts could be achieved in each county
- Strategies for identifying and supporting investment in new technology to triage calls and link individuals to follow-up care
- Funding to boost the financial stability and sustainability of call centers and evidence-based crisis services in every county, so that people experiencing behavioral health crises can receive higher quality support
- Increasing of capacity at the call centers answering 9-8-8 contacts, for long-term improvement of answer rates for 9-8-8 calls
- Requirements for compliance with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Requirements and Best Practices Guidelines for Operational and Clinical Standards
- Ways for call centers to maintain local resource and referral listings and ensure linkages to local community crisis services
- Ways for centers to provide follow-up services to 9-8-8 callers, texters, and chatters based on Lifeline best practices and guidelines
- Requirements for compliance with the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 and the Federal Communications Commission's rules adopted July 16, 2020, to assure that all Alabama residents receive an effective level of 9-8-8 and crisis behavioral health services no matter where they live, work or travel in the state
The Study Commission shall review the findings of the 9-8-8 Comprehensive Behavioral Health Crisis Communication System landscape analysis submitted by the Alabama Department of Mental Health. The Study Commission shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Senate President Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on or before January 11, 2022, the first day of the 2022 Regular Legislative Session, at which time it shall be dissolved.
The purpose of the 9-8-8 Comprehensive Behavioral Health Crisis Communication System Commission (typically called the 9-8-8 commission), created by Act 2021-359, is to study and provide recommendations for the implementation of the 9-8-8 system to enhance and expand behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention services before it is nationally implemented on July 16, 2022, as required by Public Law No: 116-172.
Based on ACT 2021-359, the Commission consists of:
- Alabama Department of Mental Health: Kimberly Boswell, Commissioner
- Alabama Department of Public Health: Scott Harris, M.D., State Health Officer
- Two members of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker: Representative Matt Simpson (for House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter) & Representative Neil Rafferty
- Two members of the State Senate, appointed by the Pro Tempore: Senator Vivian Davis Figures & Senator Garlan Gudger
- Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs: Bob Horton, LTC, Assistant Commissioner
- Alabama Emergency Management Agency: Colonel Brian Hastings, Director
- Alabama Law Enforcement Agency: Hal Taylor, Secretary or Proxy: Heather Pyrlik, Government Relations Manager
- Governor’s Office: Dave White, Governor’s Senior Policy Advisor
- The Crisis Center of Birmingham: Rhiannon Reese, Clinical Director Crisis Programs
- Crisis Services of North Alabama: Janet Gabel, Executive Director
- Family Counseling Center of Mobile: Chandra Brown, Executive Director
- Two representatives from the Council for Behavioral Healthcare: Holly McCorkle, Executive Director, Council for Behavioral Healthcare & Jeremy Blair, Chief Executive Officer, Wellstone, Inc.
- Behavioral Healthcare Alliance of Alabama: Randy Phillips, Executive Director Indian Rivers Mental Health Center
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, AL Chapter: Jennifer Hall, Area Director
- Department of Human Resources: Karen Smith, Deputy Commissioner for Family Services
- NAMI Alabama: Kelly Emerson, Executive Director