The California Peer-Run Warm Line officially opened Oct. 7, offering free non-emergency emotional support and referrals to anyone in the state via telephone or instant messaging. This service is made possible because of a state budget allocation of $10.8 million over three years, championed by Governor 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,” said Ting.
“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,” said Wiener.
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.
The California Peer-Run Warm Line is toll free: 1-855-845-7415 and will initially be staffed for most of the day: Mondays to Fridays: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturdays: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sundays: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The call center is scheduled to ramp up to 24/7 service by the end of the year and expects about 25,000 calls a year. This new mental health line builds upon the city-funded San Francisco Peer-Run Warm Line, which opened in 2014 and is run by the Mental Health Association of San Francisco (MHASF). Past callers expressed concerns over interpersonal relationships, anxiety, panic, depression and alcohol/drug use.
“The Warm Line saves lives by providing preventative care for those in distress,” said Mark Salazar, the Executive Director of MHASF. “At the same time, the Warm Line saves money for the community by helping our callers to stay out of crisis and the need for emergency resources like ER visits, hospitalization and police intervention. We are very pleased to be partnering with the state of California to create what we believe is the first comprehensive state run Warm Line.”
The debut of the California Peer-Run Warm Line coincides with World Mental Health Day and its suicide prevention theme this year.