In the United States, a community's response to a behavioral health crisis is often fragmented, inefficient, and inaccessible to those who need it most. In most communities, few treatment options are designed for and capable of safely managing the care of individuals in crisis. Additionally, the capacity of behavioral health services, both inpatient and outpatient, has struggled to keep up with rising patient volumes and requests for services. This challenge has been made worse by workforce shortages across the industry.
Most often, those who need crisis care are taken to emergency rooms or booked into jails, but these facilities are not equipped to provide adequate access to psychiatric treatment. Instead, individuals may wait hours or days in a hospital for a bed in an inpatient psychiatric unit - if they can access one at all – or they are released from jail without having any treatment at all.
Several social and political movements in recent years have provided both bi-partisan and community support to overhaul and improve how we respond to behavioral health crises. Realizing the importance of this moment, Connections Health Solutions’ Chief of Quality and Clinical Innovation, Dr. Margie Balfour, and the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry wrote the Roadmap for Behavioral Health Crisis Care (“The Roadmap”), a comprehensive guide to developing and improving behavioral health crisis response systems. The Roadmap was published by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing in 2020 and quickly garnered attention from policymakers, advocacy organizations, and community leaders.
The Roadmap calls for a crisis care system that, like the medical emergency system, can treat all individuals regardless of acuity, co-occurring disorders, payer status, or legal treatment status. The document details:
The three core interactive elements needed to design a crisis care system.
A framework for developing community leadership collaboration and maintaining engagement for the system's planning, implementation, oversight, and continuous improvement.
A case study on the Arizona crisis system, which has been studied and promoted by government and behavioral health experts. Dr. Margie Balfour has shared more of her perspective on “Behavioral Health Crisis Care’s Carpe Diem Moment” and the importance of leveraging The Roadmap to transform the system with PsychTimes.