Kansas Mental
Health Coalition

988 Crisis Hotline Legislation on Hold

April 03, 2022 7:23 PM | Amy Campbell (Administrator)

The Kansas Legislature left Topeka for First Adjournment without passing the 988 Crisis Hotline Legislation. House Substitute for SB 19 - the LIVES Act - is now in the hands of a six member conference committee on health care legislation.  It must be passed by the end of the Veto Session that begins April 25 in order to become law.

The House of Representatives passed the bill March 21 on a vote of 114-8.  Unfortunately, regular committees in the Senate were no longer meeting, as the Legislature entered full time floor debates to move as much legislation as possible prior to the Drop Dead Day April 1.  The House had worked on the bill for nearly two years, while only senators on Ways and Means, Kancare Oversight and Mental Health Modernization and Reform had received reports on the legislation.  It is not unusual for one chamber to insert legislation into a bill from the other chamber in order to expedite the process, but 988 is significant legislation and advocates feared the Senate might balk.  The stalemate lasted more than a week.

Finally, on Friday, April 1, the conference committee on House Sub for SB 19 met and came to a tentative agreement regarding amendments to the bill.  The conferees agreed to add language to clarify crisis and short-term services to be covered for uninsured Kansans, restrict services to out-of-state persons, and reduce the number of people on the 988 Advisory Council.  The Supplemental Note provides details of the legislation and action by the House Health and Human Services Committee and the House Energy, Utilities and Environment Committee.  The Supplemental Note does not include amendments proposed by the conference committee.  

Background:  he National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 (S. 2661) creates 988, a 3-digit mental health crisis line. 988 will be a crucial tool to link people with trained staff who can provide on-the-phone assistance or refer to  crisis response, reducing the burden on local law enforcement, emergency rooms, jails and state hospitals. However, the federal legislation is not funded – recommending a state-enacted fee on phone services.  

The phone fee has been a major hang-up for HB 2281.  Ultimately, the bill was passed by the House Health and Human Services Committee after a lot of negotiation with phone companies to reduce the monthly phone fee from 50 cents to 20 cents.  Then, the bill was referred to the House Energy Utilities and Environment Committee, where the fee was pulled out, recommending funding from the state general fund and moving it into House Substitute for SB 19.  The legislation must still pass the full House of Representatives before it can be addressed by the Senate.

Converting and expanding our current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to a fully functional front door to behavioral health crisis response in Kansas resolves a glaring gap in the continuum of care. Families need somewhere to call when a crisis occurs for themselves or their loved ones – a link to a live voice to deescalate the situation or link to appropriate interventions and resources.

KDADS has fulfilled the federal planning requirements and phone services will start directing 988 calls July 16, 2022.  The Legislature must act to assure the hotline is operational and the necessary trained response services are in place with funding.

(c) Kansas Mental Health Coalition, P.O. Box 4744, Topeka, KS  66604  785-969-1617

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