HARRISBURG – Sen. Rosemary Brown (R-40) successfully advocated and strengthened language in House Bill 1300 to direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study on Pennsylvania’s 988 suicide and crisis hotline.
The initiative was prompted by Brown’s mental health caucus and conversations with Fe and Gareth Hall, Brown’s constituents. The Halls unfortunately lost their son – Christian Hall – to a mental health crisis on Dec. 30, 2020.
“This is the first step to ensure the effectiveness of our state’s suicide and crisis hotline, particularly its interoperability into our current 911 system,” said Brown. “A thorough review of its operation is necessary and important to our work as policymakers as we work to build mental health services across our state. I thank my Senate Republican leadership for working with me on my suggested language and strengthening the parameters.”
Brown’s efforts directed the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, in conjunction with the Joint State Government Commission and the Local Government Commission to study and make recommendations on:
- The integration of the 988 suicide and crisis hotline into the 911 system.
- Protocols to support the effective communication and coordination of first responders.
- Standards and procedures which should be followed when a behavioral health crisis is routed to 988, including consideration of cultural and language barriers and policies established by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Before the implementation of 988, Christian Hall, experienced a mental health crisis. Monroe County 911 dispatchers received an anonymous call of a suicidal man on a bridge along Route 80. Law enforcement responded to the scene to deescalate the situation. Unfortunately, the de-escalation was unsuccessful. Investigations following the events found that the anonymous caller to 911 was Christian Hall.
Christian Hall’s parents, Fe and Garth, have advocated for policy reforms that may have helped their son and others in the future. Pennsylvania’s 988 system, specifically, its interoperability with 911, may have been able to provide additional crisis support to the emergency responders.
“I will continue to work for everyday issues and policies that I believe are current and critical,” Brown said. “Mental health is a concern that our families are facing more and more each day.”