City of Berkeley creates mental health crisis hotline

Yijian Shan/Staff

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The city of Berkeley announced the creation of a mental health crisis line that connects members of the community to mental health professionals, as was first reported by Berkeley Patch.

Berkeley city spokesperson Matthai Chakko said the daytime crisis line, which can be reached at (510) 981-5244, offers support and resources to community members who are experiencing mental health crises. According to the city’s press release, the new crisis line operates Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The line was created to help provide early intervention and to reduce the number of mental health-related calls to police.

“We do have a police department that is trained and experienced in dealing with people who have a range of mental health challenges,” Chakko said. “But, at the same time, this is a crisis line where the people who are going to be answering the calls are trained, mental health staff.”

This service was funded by the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission. The program was created after Berkeley’s mental health division found — in an assessment of community needs in 2016-17 — that community members wanted a resource to call during times of mental health crises, according to Chakko.

Berkeley also has various mental health resources for its community members, including the Berkeley Mental Health Adult Services Clinic, a crisis assessment and triage team, as well as a mobile crisis team, according to Chakko.

Chakko added that Berkeley is one of the two cities in California that receive state and federal funding for mental health, even though Berkeley is not a county.

“We want to help people and we want to be another resource,” Chakko said. “We already do a lot of work on mental health issues but this is another service we hope to offer people.”

According to Liz Gobbo, UC Berkeley’s National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, chapter external vice president, the line is incredibly beneficial because it provides a method to address mental health concerns without calling the police, which can have far-reaching repercussions. Those who suffer from mental illness can find themselves in a “vicious cycle of being punished over and over again for being mentally ill,” Gobbo said.

A person is both incredibly vulnerable and perceived as a threat when going through a mental health crisis, according to Gobbo. NAMI supports the creation of the hotline, as it provides community members of all races and gender identities with compassion and support from trained professionals, Gobbo said.

“This hotline can be a powerful tool for checking these implicit biases of bystanders, law enforcement, and healthcare workers and ensure the person in crisis is actually treated like a patient, not a criminal,” Gobbo said in an email.

Aishwarya Kaimal is the lead research and ideas reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Aishwarya_R_K‏.