Recommendations to Governor Hochul to Support 9-8-8 Initiative

Baerga v. City of New York, CCIT-NYC, Disability Justice, NYLPI v. NYPD, News, Transforming Mental Health Crisis Response

A man holding his head in his hands under a bridge

December 22, 2021  

The Honorable Kathleen C. Hochul, Governor  

The State of New York  

New York State Capitol  

Albany, NY 12224  

Dear Governor Hochul:  

The undersigned organizations, representing a broad cross-section of mental health, substance use, suicide prevention, health, criminal legal, and children’s advocates, along with healthcare providers and faith leaders are writing you to congratulate and express our gratitude to you for advancing the requirements for the state to plan for and report on the steps that will be necessary for the establishment of an effective 9-8-8 call-system to replace 9-1-1 as the appropriate number to use for someone experiencing a mental health crisis. 

While we celebrate that New York has advanced the 9-8-8 initiative, we want to implore you and legislative leaders as you continue to negotiate 9-8-8’s implementation in the upcoming 2022 session that you include the following elements we agree to be necessary to 9-8-8’s success in New York State.  

To be successful and truly aid those it intends to help, then 9-8-8 must be appropriately funded (and sustained) in order to provide 24 hour statewide coverage, seven days a week with all the services offered in-state with the ability to provide local resources in a linguistically and culturally competent manner. There also must be funding to accommodate an appropriate workforce to create the necessary capacity to meet this need.  

Additionally, funding must be available to educate the public on the difference between 9-8-8  and 9-1-1. Finally, we want to the New York State Office of Mental Health to oversee 9-8-8’s operations. 

Details of these recommendations can be found in NAMI-NYS’s recent report on the need for 9-8-8 and a Mental Healthcare Response system. These measures are long overdue as the criminalization of mental illness is one of the leading social justice issues of our time. New  York’s jails and prisons are disproportionately populated by people with a mental illness who deserve treatment and recovery, not punishment. It is estimated that more than 60% of New York’s incarcerated population has either a diagnosable mental illness or substance use issue.  

For far too many, entry into the criminal legal system began with them experiencing a mental health crisis and with a call to 9-1-1. As our system is currently configured, calls to 9-1-1 can be entry points down a road leading to punishment. This is especially true in communities of color,  who are far less likely to have access to mental health care and far more likely to have a negative interaction with law enforcement. New York needs to create a divergent path that leads toward care and recovery; a fully-funded 9-8-8 is the gateway to this path to recovery. 

As we continue to see surges in COVID-19, the need for mental health crisis services continues to grow. New York has an incredible opportunity to take a vital step in decriminalizing mental illness and establishing a mental healthcare response to a mental health crisis, but it is important to note that New York only has one opportunity to implement 9-8-8 and all the sweeping promises it holds, correctly. We urge you to make the most of this landmark opportunity and ensure that 9-8-8 is implemented correctly with sustainable funding.  

New Yorkers deserve hope, healing and recovery, not punishment. New Yorkers deserve a fully funded and properly funded 9-8-8 system.  

We thank you for your attention to this issue and look forward to working with you and the legislative create a mentally healthier and just New York State.  


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) 

AFSP Greater Central NY 

AFSP Hudson Valley  

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Capital Region 

Association for Community Living New York State 

Brooklyn Quakers 

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany Catskills Addiction Coalition 

Center For Community Alternatives Center for Community Alternatives Center for Independence of the Disabled,  NY 

Child Care Council of Westchester Chinese-American Family Alliance for Mental Health 

Coalition of Medication Assisted Treatment  Providers and Advocates (COMPA) Community Access, Inc. 

Crisis Text Line 

Decarcerate Tompkins County 

DePaul Housing 

Early Care & Learning Council 


Epilepsy Foundation North Eastern New  York 

Families Together in New York State Friends of Recovery New York 

Gateway Hudson Valley 

Goodwill of the Finger Lakes 

Harlem United 

Hispanic Health Network 

Latino Commission on AIDS 

Legal Action Center

Living Hope for Mental Health 

Long Island AFSP  

Long Island Council of Churches 

Long Island Social Justice Action Network Mental Health America 

Mental Health America of New York State (MHANYS) 

MHA in Chautauqua County 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) National Alliance on Mental Illness-New York State (NAMI-NYS) 

NAMI Buffalo & Erie County 

NAMI Capital Region 

NAMI Cayuga County 

NAMI Champlain Valley 

NAMI Columbia County 

NAMI Delaware & Otsego Counties NAMI Finger Lakes 

NAMI Huntington 

NAMI Mid-Hudson 

NAMI Montgomery, Fulton & Hamilton Counties 

NAMI New York City Metro 

NAMI NYC Staten Island 

NAMI Orange County 

NAMI Putnam County 

NAMI Queens/Nassau 

NAMI Rochester  

NAMI Rockland  

NAMI Schenectady 

NAMI Sullivan County 

NAMI Syracuse 

NAMI Westchester County 

National Action Network NYC Chapter Second Chance Committee 

New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) New York City AFSP  

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest 

New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare 

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center 

Northern Rivers 

NYS Association of Counties 

NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health 

NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors 

NYS Network for Youth Success, Inc. Policy Research Associates, Inc. 

Prevent Child Abuse New York 

Public Interest Resource Center, Fordham  Law School 

Race Talk Revolution,Inc. 

Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University 

Restoration Society Inc 

Restore Our Community Coalition River Towns Civil Rights Network Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction The Coalition for Behavioral Health The Jed Foundation 

The Kennedy Forum 

The STARR Coalition 

The Trevor Project 

Transform Stigma 

United Community Center of Westchester Uptown Progressive Action 

Urban Justice Center 

Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project Vibrant Emotional Health 

Vocational Instruction Project Community Services, Inc. 

Westchester AFSP  

Westchester Children’s Association Westchester Women’s Agenda

Western NY AFSP Zappalarti Society for LGBTQI Mental Health 


New York State Senator Samra Brouk, Chair, Mental Health Committee  

New York State Assembly Member Aileen Gunther, Chair Mental Health Committee New York State Senator Pete Harckham, Chair, Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Jihoon Kim, Deputy Secretary for Human Services and Mental Hygiene  

New York State Senator Liz Krueger, Chair, Finance Committee  

Alison Mitchell, Counsel to the Governor  

Robert Mujica, Director, Division of the Budget  

Mark Noordsy, Deputy Commissioner and Counsel. Office of Mental Health Peg O’Shea, Chief Budget Examiner, Division of the Budget  

Ann Sullivan, MD, Commissioner, Office of Mental Health  

New York State Assembly Member Helene Weinstein, Chair, Ways and Means Committee  Charlie Williams, Deputy Director, Division of the Budget  

David Wollner, Legislative Coordinator, Office of Mental Health


Take Action

Here’s what you can do right now for justice in New York…

Stay up to date

Get updates on our cases and campaigns, and join us in taking action for justice…

Stay Connected

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and opportunities to take action from our team.

Thanks! We’ll be in touch soon!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!