Mental health hotline 988 is failing many Angelenos

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In July 2022, LA County rolled out an alternative hotline for mental health emergencies: 988. Photo by Shutterstock.

In July 2022, LA County rolled out a hotline specifically for mental health emergencies: 988. Karen Bass and other local leaders heralded the program as a revolution in crisis response, but a recent LA Times investigation tells a different story. Extremely long wait times and bureaucratic rigmarole have hobbled the program and left many without help when they need it most. 

In 2022, 34% of requested crisis response teams were taking more than eight hours to respond. As a result, many folks ended up calling 911 instead.

LA Times journalist Lila Seidman says the root of the problem is not money but staffing. Since the pandemic, many mental health providers have gone remote, and an insufficient number want to return to in-person crisis response. 

According to Seidman, “[LA County] hasn’t been able to attract people to do this work. They're exploring ways in which to bring people on, including offering them bonuses or certain types of flexible schedules.”