January 9, 2024

Supervisors Throw Support Behind Padilla Bill to Fix 988 Call Routing

Los Angeles, CA – Today, led by Supervisor Janice Hahn and Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to support a new Senate bill that would fix an ongoing problem with the way the 9-8-8 mental health and suicide crisis hotline operates. The Local 988 Response Act of 2023, which was introduced by Senator Alex Padilla in December, would require that calls to 9-8-8 be routed to call centers based on the proximity of the caller, not the caller’s area code.

Since the 9-8-8 national mental health crisis hotline launched in 2022 it has been accessed by millions of Americans in their moments of need. But the federal legislation that created 9-8-8 designed the number to be routed to call centers based on the area code of the caller’s phone number, rather than the caller’s location. This has presented a problem in Los Angeles County because it is one of the few counties that has set 9-8-8 up to be able to connect to mobile crisis response teams when callers need an in-person response. If someone calls 9-8-8 from their cell phone with an out of county area code, they will not reach the Los Angeles County call center and cannot connect to mobile crisis response teams.

This past year, Supervisor Janice Hahn raised this issue with her former colleagues in Congress both in discussions in Los Angeles and meetings in Washington, D.C., seeking a legislative fix.

“When someone calls 9-8-8 and needs help that we can’t provide over the phone, we need to be able to send mental health professionals to them quickly — but that can’t happen if LA County residents with out-of-state area codes are diverted away from our local call center,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “One of my goals when I went to Washington last spring was to get the ball rolling on solving this problem and I am grateful that on top of Congressman Cardenas’ bill in the House, we have this new bipartisan bill by Senator Padilla.”

The Local 988 Response Act of 2023 (S. 3444) would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promulgate regulations requiring mobile phone carriers to route 9-8-8 calls based on the proximity of the caller to the call center, not the area code. It is the companion legislation to HR 4974 which was introduced in the House by Congressman Tony Cardenas last summer.

“This motion is about making sure we get the most responsive and timely help to those who are reaching out,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “Operators from our local County call center should be the ones that provide assistance and connections to crisis responders as soon as possible; implementing geo routing is the right approach to make that happen. If our federal government partners authorize this change, lives will be undoubtedly saved.”

Today, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a motion by Supervisor Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Barger to send a letter of support for S. 3444 to Senator Alex Padilla and to Senator Laphonza Butler to encourage her to co-sponsor the legislation. The board previously voted to support Congressman Cardenas’ HR 4974 in August.

Los Angeles County currently has 47 psychiatric mobile response teams that operate 24/7 to respond to mental health crises, including 9-8-8 calls. 95% of calls to LA County’s 9-8-8 call centers are resolved over the phone, but about 5% need an in-person response.

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