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AB 988: New mental health legislation and a mother's crusade to honor her son

Miles Hall was killed by police in 2019
Miles Hall
Posted at 5:53 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 00:02:44-04

(KGTV) -- Taun Hall remembers her son, Miles, as a caring man who was best friends with his sister.

“He had a heart of gold, big smile,” Hall said, who grew up in San Diego. “He was also a self-taught musician. He learned how to play the piano on his own. He was brilliant.”

Hall said her 23-year-old son had schizoaffective disorder and dealt with hallucinations. She said he had no criminal record and her family had worked with police on his previous mental health episodes.

On June 2, 2019, his family called Walnut Creek Police after he had broken a window during a mental health episode. She said her son was holding a gardening tool when he started running in officers’ direction. He was shot and killed.

She said police were aware of her son’s mental health problems before arriving on the scene.

“We even had a mental health officer that was established that knew our family,” Hall said. “So we were feeling like, okay. They’re coming to help him with care and compassion and unfortunately, that day they came and he was shot four times.

Since her son was killed, the family established the Miles Hall Foundation. Hall feels AB 988 could have saved her son.

“Absolutely… all you need to do is have someone who’s trained and understands what someone who’s going through mental illness needs,” Hall said.

A federal bipartisan bill signed into law last year established 988 as the new suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. States have until next summer to launch it.

In California, AB 988, also known as the “Miles Hall Lifeline Act,” would establish a 24/7 crisis center that would be able to deploy services.

San Diego psychiatrist Dr. Eric Rafla-Yuan, legislative director for the San Diego Psychiatric Society, said we need the right people to respond to different emergencies. He said that police are not equipped to handle mental health issues.

“Most police departments don’t mandate any sort of training in mental health first aid or recognizing when someone is having a mental health crisis,” Rafla-Yuan said. “They [also] don’t necessarily have any of the equipment… they don’t have medications.”

There is a wide range of support for AB 988, including from the City of San Diego.

“Just like we want paramedics [and] EMTs to come with the ambulance when there’s a mental health emergency, we want mental health professionals there as well,” Rafla-Yuan said.

He said focus on mental health is long overdue. "I think that people are increasingly recognizing how detrimental it is to leave these untreated and what a drain on society it is when we don't take care of people who need our help," he said. "I'm glad to see that more attention is being paid right now."

“We have to speak up when we see things that are wrong and broken and systems that are broken,” Hall said. “It could happen to anybody… take this bill seriously and realize that this could save generations of lives.”

Funding for AB 988 would come from a variety of sources, including federal and local money. Like the 911 system, a surcharge for phone calls may also be applied to help fund 988.