Mayor on Mental Health Hotline, City Hall Landscaping and COVID-19 Update

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Mayor on Mental Health Hotline, City Hall Landscaping and COVID-19 Update

9-8-8 & the City of Alameda CARE Team: A new nationwide 24/7 phone number for suicide prevention and crisis support was recently introduced: 9-8-8 is a new, easier to remember number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, but the Lifeline’s previous number, 1-800-273-8255 will remain available.

9-8-8 callers will first hear an automated greeting with options to select the Veterans Lifeline, Spanish language Lifeline, or remain on the line for English language services. The Lifeline also provides interpretation services in over 250 additional languages.

You’ll be connected to a trained crisis line counselor who will provide emotional support, a safety assessment, and safety planning. Their goal is to provide every caller the support and de-escalation needed and make referrals to appropriate available resources. Crisis line counselors will ask where a caller is located and, once they believe an individual is stabilized, most crisis call center counselors will attempt to provide the caller with the phone number of their closest call center.

However, the 9-8-8 system doesn’t currently have geolocation capabilities, i.e., the ability to identify a caller’s physical location, but relies solely on area code information. In Alameda County, 9-8-8 callers with 510 or 341 area code numbers will be routed to Crisis Support Services of Alameda County (CSS). You can also call CSS directly at 1-800-309-2131.
If 988 counselors feel they’re not able to deescalate a caller who continues to be a threat to themselves or others, they will call the local 9-1-1 number to request a law enforcement welfare check.

In the City of Alameda, calling 9-1-1 will activate the city’s CARE Team, our community-dedicated 24/7 mental health crisis response team for those experiencing a mental health emergency. Specially trained Alameda Fire Department EMT/paramedics, in consultation with mental health professionals from Alameda Family Services (AFS), would provide assistance. AFS also provides case management follow-up for clients after the initial call.

9-8-8 is an excellent option for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts, or who knows someone who is, because it provides easy access to a trained crisis counselor. Since its inception in 1966, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has saved countless lives and supported community members in crisis. For many years, it was the only resource available. Now, as communities, including Alameda, recognize and address the mental health crisis with programs like The CARE Team there is an opportunity for crisis lines to work closely with these innovative programs. Happily, Alameda Fire Chief Nick Luby and AFS Executive Director Katherine Schwartz, who I consulted for this article, have been in close communication with CSS, and will meet with them in early August to explore a productive collaboration with the CARE Team going forward. The good news is that there are now more options than ever to address our mental health needs.

Drought Resistant Garden Replaces Water Guzzling Lawn: The City of Alameda is taking the statewide drought seriously. Have you seen the beautiful new drought tolerant landscape at City Hall? Over half the plantings are California natives, and any non-native plants are drought tolerant Mediterranean varieties selected to thrive in our climate. We’ve also included flowering pollinator plants to attract birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects.

Fencing will be up for another month or so to let the young plants establish, but major water savings from the new state-of-the-art underground drip irrigation system have already begun: The City Hall lawn replacement will reduce the city’s water usage by 192,000 gallons a year! And, once the lawn conversion at City Hall West at Alameda Point is completed, we’ll save an additional 870,000 gallons of water annually, bringing total water reduction to more than one million gallons per year!

This project was designed and constructed in accordance with Bay Friendly landscape guidelines, and the City will receive a rebate from East Bay MUD for its conversion from a lawn to a water-wise demonstration garden.

All around the city residents are replacing their lawns with drought resistant plantings and vegetable gardens. Why not give it a try?

COVID is still out there: Alameda County continues to report a high level of COVID-19 infections. Although hospitalizations are lower than during previous waves, the current Omicron sub-variants spread easily, so please exercise caution. Masks remain strongly recommended in indoor public settings, and everyone eligible to get a booster shot should do so right away to help prevent severe disease.

You can also order up to eight free At-Home Test Kits from the federal government. Visit or call 1-800-232-0233 to place your order.

Be mindful of your mental health; it’s just as important as your physical health. Resources are available 24/7 so please seek help if you, or someone you know, needs assistance. That’s how we stay Alameda Strong!