This month, California launched the first statewide mental health line. The peer-run line based in San Francisco will get $10.8 million over three years to expand across the state.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. – 43.8 million – experience mental health challenges per year. This month, the state signed off on funding for a call center based in San Francisco to cover the whole state. The California Peer-Run Warm Line offers free nonemergency emotional support and referrals via phone or instant messaging. Its toll-free number is 855-845-7415 and it operates 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays.
Mark Salazar, executive director of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, says, “The call center is scheduled to ramp up to 24/7 service by the end of the year and expects about 25,000 calls a year. San Francisco has operated a similar service since 2014.”
On the line
When Salazar described the service, he said, “Our goal is to offer accessible, relevant, nonjudgmental peer support to anyone in the state of California who reaches out to us. Having readily available access to support and human connection helps people avoid getting to a crisis point later on.
“Callers consistently reach out to the Warm Line for multiple, often related, reasons. Someone who calls feeling isolated, for example, may also be experiencing underlying mental health challenges that create barriers to employment and accessing stable housing. We regularly see examples of the cycle of trauma being perpetuated in this way, often putting people in danger of reaching a crisis point without ongoing support.”
What it is not
When asked what the call center will not do, Salazar said, “The line is not a crisis line or a hotline. The warm line aims to prevent a crisis. To provide you the support before you reach crisis. Crisis lines, hotlines and suicide hotlines are for those that are in crisis and in need of immediate support or intervention.”
California shows wide geographic variation in rates of serious mental illness. The state’s poorest areas often have the highest rates and the fewest licensed mental health professionals to provide treatment.
“When addressing issues surrounding health, the conversation must also include emotional wellness. This new state resource builds on our current mental health system by serving a population that is not in crisis but still in need of support,” said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who pushed for the line’s funding.
Those behind the service hope it will prevent the need for expensive, crisis-based interventions, like hospital stays in a state with fewer acute care psychiatric facilities than in the 1990s.
Salazar said the funds for the call center will be budgeted as follows:
- 14%: community outreach and marketing
- 22%: expansion of infrastructure and operations
- 64%: staffing and professional development
Other places to contact
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
- Alcohol Hotline Support & Information: 800-331-2900
- Grief Recovery Helpline: 800-445-4808
- SOS Teen Hotline: 800-949-0057
- National Youth Crisis Hotline: 800-448-4663
- Orange County Crisis Hotline: 877-727-4747
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: 240-485-1001
- National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders: 800-931-2237
Mental illness across California
According to a 2013 report, “Mapping the Gaps in Mental Health,” by the California Health Care Foundation, the state’s regions with the fewest licensed mental health professionals often have the highest rates of mental illness.
Sources: Mental Health Association of San Francisco; Cal.gov; National Institute of Mental Health; Dr. Clayton Chau, regional executive medical director of St. Joseph Hoag Health’s Institute for Mental Health & Wellness; California Health Care Almanac