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Best Practices for 988

The nationwide 988 crisis care system goes live on July 16, 2022. This new emergency number is solely dedicated to anyone experiencing a behavioral health crisis, regardless of severity. 988 is designed to take the strain off the current 911 call system, reduce the reliance on law enforcement and lower emergency room visits while providing compassionate care for those in crisis.

To realize the fundamental objectives of 988, the system will have to be more than a number. It will need to be a properly funded and coordinated eco-system of trained mental health professionals coupled with state-of-the-art resources providing a multi-touch experience that facilitates follow-up care. Consistency across counties and states will also contribute to its success.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has cited three core components that are needed to make up an ideal crisis response system.1

  1. Regional Crisis Call Center
  2. Crisis Mobile Team Response
  3. Crisis Receiving and Stabilization Facilities

Call centers will be the first point of contact for someone experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Staffed with trained mental health professionals, the centers will work as a hub with the ability to dispatch mobile crisis teams, check the availability of inpatient care and arrange same-day or next-day outpatient appointments. They will also do follow-up calls and communicate with mental health care providers as needed.

Mobile crisis teams will be dispatched when people need more than telephonic support. An example of such a team is the model that has been proven in the field: trained peers partnered with bachelor- or master-level educated staff. In some regions, there are even specific youth crisis teams available. These mobile crisis teams will help provide appropriate care/support while avoiding unnecessary law enforcement deployment or hospitalization.

Real-time connection to bed availability at stabilization facilities will be needed to provide the best care possible when a person in crisis needs to be hospitalized. An example of such a working model is Beacon’s partnership with OPEN BEDS, who provides a bed registry that allows facilities to accept or decline a person through the system. The facilities can also provide other vital information, like how long it will take to assess or decline a person or why someone has been declined. This system is also implementing a real-time GPS dispatch in some regions.

One last component that should not be overlooked is community partnership. By teaming up with each community, a crisis care system can be customized to best serve their specific needs. The good news is that experienced companies like Beacon already have these core components in place, making behavioral crisis response quicker, safer and, above all, more compassionate.

Read more about the 988 crisis care system.

1 https://www.nami.org/getattachment/43600aa2-34db-4fb0-964c-3b86927f768f/Advocacy-Resource-on-988-Crisis-Response-System-Vi

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