ALABAMA (WHNT) — Alabama lawmakers are considering an increase in cell phone and landline fees to create more funding for mental health care.
State leaders are trying to get this bill passed before the end of this year’s session. It’s part of an ongoing state effort to expand mental health care services across Alabama.
Lawmakers say House Bill 389 would add a fixed amount to monthly phone bills, creating more money to care for individuals suffering from mental illnesses.
If the proposal passes, Alabama residents would see a 98-cent increase in their monthly phone service bill. Funding created by the increase in phone bills would help generate nearly $70 million to expand mental health care services.
Huntsville Representative Rex Reynolds sponsors the bill. He says expanding mental health care is key to addressing the mental hurdles that some deal with.
“One out of three could be impacted by mental health in their lifetime we go to get people early you know red flags we got to identify those individuals and get that crisis care to them as soon as we can,” Reynolds told News 19.
Terre Stewart, who is a mental health coordinator at Wellstone, talked to News 19 about the importance and benefits of Alabama expanding mental health access.
“It’s truly important because it can reduce the suicide rate, it can reduce substance abuse, it can reduce crime, it can reduce various barriers that we’re dealing within society,” Stewart said.
The bill would be an expansion of the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline, where callers are connected with specialists to help them work through suicidal thoughts.
Alabama residents would likely see an annual increase of almost 12 dollars in cell phone fees if the bill were to pass.
However, knowing the importance of mental health, Kate Phillips says she doesn’t mind what she called a minimal increase for a good cause.
“Mental health access is really important and not something that a lot of people have access to its a minimal cost to help bring a lot of help to a lot of people,” Phillips said.
Representative Reynolds said the bill would create sustainable funding for mental health care in Alabama, avoiding the uncertainty of relying on the general fund.
Although the resolution has not been finalized, lawmakers are pushing for it to be passed before early June,when this year’s legislative session ends.