Statement from NAMI California Regarding Assembly Bill 680

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

2/20/19 10:15 a.m.

Assembly Bill 680, introduced by Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose) and sponsored by NAMI California, would allow emergency dispatchers to receive the same mental health crisis training as police officers.

“This legislation gives dispatchers the tools they need to facilitate the safety and efficiency of these encounters by summoning the right people, providing the most accurate information to those called and protecting us as citizens as well as the brave first responders who arrive to provide assistance,” NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz said in a statement. “NAMI California envisions a future in which all interactions between first responders and those in a mental health crisis be safe, healing and accommodating.

“Across California, families and individuals living with mental illness depend on dispatchers to know who to call to make sure incidents remain safe for all involved.”

Existing laws already require specified categories of law enforcement to meet training standards pursuant to courses of training certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. They currently have to undergo 15 hours of behavioral health and de-escalation training, with additional continuing education courses.

Chu says the bill would help dispatchers better recognize mental health issues, disabilities or substance abuse disorders when encountering emergency situations. It would also help them enhance communication and improve de-escalation outcomes in crisis situations.

“Too many law enforcement interactions with people in mental health crisis end in tragedy,” Chu said in a statement. “A.B. 680 will provide dispatchers, who are often the first point of contact in a crisis, with valuable training to help identify a mental health crisis and inform law enforcement how to appropriately approach the situation on the ground.”

Chu added that the trainings would help keep individuals living with a mental illness out of jail and ensure they receive the proper treatment.

"We need to do better to connect people with the appropriate services," he said.