A bill to add a surcharge to all mobile communication in the state to fund the 988 crisis system of care has been filed in the Alabama House of Representatives.

House Bill 389 (HB389), also called the 988 Crisis System of Care Act, is sponsored by General Fund Budget Chairman State Rep. Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville). The bill would create a governing board and provide funding for the 988 crisis system of care, which includes the 988 number, crisis care centers and mobile crisis care units.

The bipartisan 2020 National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law by President Trump, made 988 the new three-digit phone number for mental health emergencies, effective July 2022.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) has been working with a special 988 state commission to integrate Alabama into the program.

The bill would create the Alabama 988 Crisis Care Fund to collect surcharges from wireless providers to fund the service, similarly to how the 911 emergency number is supported.

All landline, wireless and other wireless voice communication services will have a monthly surcharge of 98 cents per line — one of the highest proposed rates in the nation — to fund the 988 program. Wireless providers would collect the money and remit funds to the Alabama Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue transfers these funds to The Alabama 988 Crisis Care Fund.

For 911, residents are charged $1.86 per line per month, with a total annual revenue of nearly $130 million. The 988 surcharges would total over $69 million.

The bill would also create the 988 Commission to oversee the project.

The commission will include the following:

  • The state health officer or their appointee

  • The commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health or their appointee.

  • Two members of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

  • The commissioner of the Alabama Department of Page Veterans Affairs or their designee.

  • The director of the Alabama Department of Emergency Management or their designee.

  • The secretary of the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency or their designee.

  • The governor or their designee.

  • The executive director of the Alabama Council for Behavioral Healthcare.

  • The executive director of the Behavioral Healthcare Alliance of Alabama.

  • One representative from the National Alliance on Mental Illness

  • One representative from Mental Health America.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.