Alabama bill would raise cell phone charges to raise money for mental health services

ALABAMA (WHNT) — Alabama lawmakers are considering increased cellphone and landline charges to create more funding for mental health care.

Heads of state are trying to get the bill passed before the end of this year’s session. This is 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 for care for people with mental illnesses.

If the proposal passes, Alabama residents would see a 98-cent increase in their monthly phone service bill. Funding created by rising phone bills would help generate nearly $70 million to expand mental health care services.

Huntsville Rep. Rex Reynolds is sponsoring the bill. He says expanding mental health care is key to overcoming the mental barriers some face.

“One in three people could be affected by mental health in their lifetime, we’re going to get people early, you know, we need to identify those people and get them that crisis care as soon as possible,” Reynolds told News. 19.

Terre Stewart, Mental Health Coordinator at Wellstone, spoke to News 19 about the importance and benefits of expanding access to mental health in Alabama.

“It’s really important because it can reduce the suicide rate, it can reduce drug addiction, it can reduce crime, it can reduce various barriers that we face in society,” Stewart said.

The bill would be an extension of the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline, where callers are connected with specialists to help them overcome suicidal thoughts.

Alabama residents would likely see an annual increase of nearly $12 in cell phone charges if the bill were to pass.

However, knowing the importance of mental health, Kate Phillips says she doesn’t care about what she calls a minimal raise for a good cause.

“Access to mental health is really important and it’s not something a lot of people have access to, it’s a small cost to help bring a lot of help to a lot of people,” Phillips said.

Rep. 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, at the end of this year’s legislative session.


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