California’s first Peer-Run Warm Line officially opened this week ahead of Thursday’s World Mental Health Day, providing a statewide resource for those in need of emotional support.
The non-emergency line offers free support and referrals to anyone in the state via telephone or instant messaging — a service made possible thanks to a state budget allocation of $10.8 million over three years, championed by Gov. Newsom, State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assembly Budget Committee Chair Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).
“When addressing issues surrounding health, the conversation must also include emotional wellness. This new state resource builds on our current mental health system by serving a population that is not in crisis but still in need of support,” Ting said.
According to Mental Health America, about one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental health challenges in a given year. In peer-run or peer-to-peer engagement programs, someone who has personally gone through similar mental health challenges is providing support to callers. It’s a model that helps prevent the need for more expensive, crisis-based interventions, such as hospitalizations. In addition, the term “warm line” illustrates the step before “hotline,” which typically serves people in crisis. Warm lines aim to reach those who are not quite at that stage, but still need some emotional assistance.
“Too many Californians are struggling with mental health and emotional well-being challenges. Peer-to-peer support is a proven way of helping people stay healthy and get the help they need. The California Peer-Run Warm Line is an important resource for so many people and I’m thrilled we were able to get it funded,” Wiener said.
The California Peer-Run Warm Line is toll free (1-855-845-7415) and will initially be staffed from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Rhonda Allen of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Stanislaus County said that the county already has a similar warm line in place, though the local resource is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The statewide call center is scheduled to ramp up to 24/7 service by the end of 2019 and expects about 25,000 calls a year.
“We have these things in place already, so this will be just one more way for people to get help,” Allen said. “The county’s warm line gets used a lot and they do referrals for a lot of different things.”
Callers for similar warm lines often express concerns over interpersonal relationships, anxiety, panic, depression and/or alcohol and drug use — stressors that can come at any place, any time.
“Warm lines are really helpful because the people on the phone are trained on how to refer clients to what their needed services are and to show support for whatever issues they’re going through,” Allen said.
In addition to the comfort of a trained call taker on the other end of the line, warm lines provide a way for callers to talk freely and openly about whatever they’re going through, Allen added.
“I think that anonymity is important for people because then they don’t have that shame when you know someone you’re trying to talk to, or have to worry about the critics who might be judge if they know them,” she said. “I think it’s a real positive.”
In addition to the new, statewide warm line, local residents can call the Stanislaus County Warm Line at 209-558-4600 during times that aren’t an emergency, but where they may be having a hard time making it through the day, need a caring listener to explore options or would like support or resources toward recovery.