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Crisis care saves lives through individualized services

For 22-year-old Claire,[1] the holidays proved challenging. Within a few days of a visit home, her parents noticed that Claire wasn’t herself. She hadn’t slept for days and seemed to be losing touch with reality. As Claire’s behavior became more erratic, her father called 911.

Normally a 911 call might result in an ambulance ride to the nearest emergency department (ED), or law enforcement involvement. But this call was different. The 911 dispatcher, having received specialized training from local mental health crisis collaboratives, recognized that Claire needed help from a mental health professional. Thanks to the state’s behavioral health crisis line, the dispatcher warm-transferred Claire’s father to a caring mental health associate trained in crisis response.

Once connected, the mental health associate worked quickly to triage and assess Claire’s situation by providing telephonic support, which helped de-escalate the crisis and reduce panic in her father. In some situations, the call itself may be the only intervention needed to stabilize someone who needs help. In Claire’s situation, telephonic crisis support wasn’t enough.

The crisis response line acted as air traffic control to dispatch a GPS-enabled Mobile Rapid Response Team of mental health professionals from a community health provider to see Claire in person. This allowed them to identify the type of care most beneficial to Claire. The team recognized that she was experiencing symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and suspected that she was misusing opiates. They completed an assessment and safety plan and referred her for an appointment that would take place within 48 hours. Instead of going to the ED, Claire was connected to individualized care for her needs.

Like Claire, millions of Americans struggle with mental health issues, often doing so until they experience a full-blown crisis. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Soon, people like Claire and her father will be able to bypass 911 altogether and call a new hotline dedicated to behavioral health needs.

Coming in July 2022, the 988 crisis system will go live. Functioning as the 911 for behavioral health, the 988 crisis line will operate 24/7/365 as the first nationwide number for mental health. The emergence of a nationwide crisis system for behavioral health provides an entry point to life-saving care and cannot come soon enough. The new system provides an access point to the services people really need through a wide range of options even before a crisis occurs, helping to establish a foundation for better outcomes in the long run.

“One of the most exciting things about a nationwide crisis line for behavioral health is that it meets people where they are and provides an access point to individualized care,” said Dr. Linda Henderson-Smith, Senior Product Director for Beacon Health Options. “Rather than trying to force a fit, this system is self-defined. It empowers people to break the silence about their struggles and helps them build resilience – whether the person is experiencing a full-blown crisis or just needs some support and encouragement,” she said.

While there is no single solution to behavioral health or substance use crises, a dedicated crisis line can address the spectrum of human experience and provide compassionate care and individualized experiences for all people. It reduces unnecessary and costly ED visits, unburdens law enforcement from intervening in situations for which they are not trained and ultimately saves lives.

Beacon Health Options is a proven partner in crisis services that stays connected beyond today with a plan for sustained support.

Beacon – your crisis care partner for life.


[1] The name has been changed to protect privacy.


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