by Linda Jimerson
There could not have been a more perfect way to open the January 27, 2022 White Antiracist Group (WAG) session honoring Taun Hall, mother of Miles Hall, than the Glide Ensemble’s Say Their Names.
David Fredrickson led the group in a much appreciated grounding practice. Afterwords, Tara Gamboa-Eastman, invited by Taun, spoke to the group to shed light on the status of AB988—the Miles Hall Lifeline Act Suicide and Mental Health Hotline.
Below are some transcribed excerpts from the conversation:
“I’m Tara Gamboa-Eastman. I’m the legislative advocate with the Steinberg Institute. I’m from SF and super aware of Glide and in awe of all the work you do. I’m the daughter of a career social worker who worked in the mission with the severely mentally ill. That is what propelled me into public policy. It was such a joy to land at the Steinberg Institute and get to focus on mental health – because it was my origin story. And it’s been where I got to start this wonderful work on 988.”
“Assembly Bill 988—the Miles Hall Lifeline Act is inspired and the direct result of federal legislation to take the national suicide prevention Lifeline—the existing 10 digit number and replace it with 988 with a new expanded vision to create an alternative to 911 nationwide for mental health. The vision is threefold.”
“Someone to Call– Everyone should be able to access counseling when they need it with trained mental health professionals on the other phone to talk to you, to talk to a family member, or to talk to someone in the community who sees someone who is struggling on the street.”
“Someone to Come– Having a team of mental health professionals as an alternative to law enforcement. I don’t think I need to tell this group that a quarter of the people shot and killed by police have a mental illness and the vast majority are also people of color. And the majority of those are black men. So much of the work of the civil rights movement – tying it in and finally bridging the mental health and civil rights pieces together – it’s so exciting.”
“Somewhere to Go– Right now we don’t have places for people to land and rest and recover. So when people are in crisis, they often end up in our emergency rooms where they can’t access care or in jails where they can’t access care.”
“We are working with six organizations along with the Miles Hall Foundation as lead sponsors to champion AB988. It was an incredibly difficult political process last year and it was the politics around very minute details that prevented the bill from passing.”
“Right now we are in the 2nd year of a two year legislative cycle which means that even though AB988 did not pass last year, it is still alive. We have until the end of this year to pass this version of the bill – I am confident that we will succeed. The primary way to get involved is to write letters and to show up in committee and offer testimony in support of AB988. If you send me your email, I’ll keep you apprised of AB988 status. We will let you know when we are looking for special support as well as when hearing dates are set.”
Email email@example.com to learn more about AB988.
Following Tara, Taun Hall – mother of Miles Hall, spoke.
“Thank you guys for having me here. It is so important to have these conversations. That is why I speak so much. I want people to understand what happened to my son so they might share their own personal stories and we can grow as a group – to make sure we move in the right direction – to create change.”
“And I appreciate the work you are doing and that you care and that social justice in important to you. Together as a community and as people we are strong – we are strong together and that is Miles’ story.“
“I’m going to tell you about my beautiful son Miles. Unfortunately, he was shot and killed on June 2, 2019 while experiencing a mental health emergency. We called for help. He should have been treated with compassion and care but he was treated like a criminal. Our call was answered with deadly bullets within 30 seconds of arrival. If we had 988, we would have had other options. This phone number is so important to the safety of so many people.”
“Miles was the kind of person you would want to know. He was thoughtful. He was gentle. He was kind. He was compassionate. And he struggled with mental illness for years. But he also a self-taught musician who made his own rap beats, who learned to play the piano, the guitar and he was adored by his family and friends.”
“We did everything we could to get him help – there were so many roadblocks. I took a 12 week class offered by Nami – it was Family Mental Health 101 and I made sure that law enforcement knew who Miles was. I thought that the police and I were building a relationship together. That if they knew that my black son lived in this neighborhood that they would make sure he was cared for with compassion. I just thought that if they knew him—he had grown up here for 18 years—that they would take care of him. Unfortunately, that was not the case.”
“At the hospital I knew the moment Miles was pronounced dead that this was my life’s work. I had to make sure that this didn’t happen to another family. I know this new bill is going to make a difference and change the course of so many people and so many generations. My son Miles is part of this movement. Unfortunately his death has brought us here.”
“It is so hard to tell Miles’ story. I tell it all the time and I always wish that it would be different – that the outcome would be different. But it is always the same. It is reality for so many and that is why I work so hard to see that his story is told.”
Learn more: https://www.justiceformileshall.org/ab-988
Watch the full WAG Session with Tara and Taun.
Taun tells the story of June 2, 2019 and much more about her journey since that day:
Call or email your state senator and urge him/her to support AB988.
Miles would have been 26 years old February 15, 2022.
An alarming afterword: Police Departments report that during Covid, they had significant (upwards of 80%) increases in 911 calls for Welfare and Institution Code 5150 commitments. Most concerning, close to 40% of these were for juveniles. Disengagement, uncertainty, fear, mistreatment, drugs, anxiety, depression – all are risk factors for youth suicide. The Trevor Project estimates that one LGBTQ youth between 13 -24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the United States. This is not acceptable. The good news: It has been shown that improving access to mental health resources for families and communities can help prevent youth suicide. Encouraging honest conversation and reducing the stigma of needing and asking for help is what AB-988 is all about.