The Bay Area Warmline goes Statewide
By Leah Harris

In a massive victory for peer-run services and crisis prevention, California Governor Gavin Newsom allocated $10.8 million for three years for the existing San Francisco-based Peer-Run Warm Line to expand beyond Northern California to cover the whole state. Local advocates and State Sen. Scott Weiner and Assembly Budget Committee Chair Phil Ting, both of San Francisco, worked with the governor to get the Warm Line funded in the state budget. 

Loneliness and social isolation have a tremendously negative impact on health and can even lead to premature death. The Peer-Run Warm Line helps to create a connection and reduce the human toll of social isolation. Such supports may be especially needed in rural areas where isolation may be more widespread. Outreach Manager Peter Murphy told Capital Public Radio: “Especially for isolated areas, rural areas, it can be a great service to provide support for people who may not have very good access to mental health services.” 

The Warm Line is an important prevention resource, meant to be used before an individual reaches the crisis point. As the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, which houses the warmline call center, explains on its website: 

Think of a pot that’s been left unattended and has started to boil over. Things are burning and smoke is filling the room, and we have to act now to prevent the damage from getting worse. Distress left for too long can be like that pot–suddenly boiling over into a crisis.

But it takes time and a lot of heat to get to that boiling point. What if we’d done something sooner, while things were warming up but not yet dangerously hot?

At a press conference last fall, State Sen. Weiner talked about the people the Warm Line was made for: “So many Californians – they may not quite be in crisis, but they are just about in crisis, or at risk of going into crisis. They have some real challenges, and they feel alone, and isolated. They don’t necessarily want to go to the emergency room, or they maybe don’t have the resources to seek out mental health care or counseling, but they need support.”

The San Francisco-based Warm Line provides free, non-emergency support and referrals to California residents via the toll-free phone line at 855-845-7415. Warm Line peer workers can also be reached via instant message. A recent press release from Assemblyman Ting’s office indicated that the Warm Line would ramp up to 24/7 by 2020, and expects about 25,000 calls per year. 

For further reading:

California Launches Peer-Run Mental Health ‘Warm’ Line (Capital Public Radio)