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Government agencies are making large investments to make behavioral health and crisis care services more available to the public. Mental health treatment access is a major barrier for large parts of the United States, including my home state of Arizona, ranked near the bottom in treatment access.
I will mention three recent investments and changes. First, is a recent CMS announcement for $15 million in planning grants have been awarded to 20 states to support development of community-based mobile crisis intervention services for people with Medicaid.
Second, is an announcement made by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of $282 million in American Recovery Plan (ARP) and Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations to help transition access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from its current 10-digit number to a three-digit dialing code – 988. Reports show an 800% increase in calls in 2020 compared to 2019. The 988 dialing code will provide the public with easier access to life-saving services and will be available nationally for call, text or chat beginning in July 2022.
Third, is a collaboration between The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and state agencies to offer a new option for supporting community-based mobile crisis intervention services for individuals with Medicaid. This means a person with Medicaid experiencing mental health or substance use crises by connecting then to a behavioral health specialist 24 hours per day, 365 days a year.
What does this mean for the field of integrated healthcare? For health professionals working in rural and underserved areas, your state may soon offer mobile crisis intervention services for Medicaid patients with limited or no access to mental health care. Here are other benefits to the field.
- Primary medical clinics can partner with mobile crisis units to develop reliable and efficient referral pathways
- Healthcare systems can train personnel to educate Medicaid patients on new available crisis services
- This new Medicaid option also offers flexibility for states to design programs that work for their communities, allowing states to apply for this new option under several Medicaid authorities. This also means that healthcare systems can collaborate with state agencies to provide input on program design.
- The ARP provides additional federal funding to states for qualifying mobile crisis intervention services for three years.
It is encouraging to see these investments, albeit some are temporary. Health professionals should continue to advocate for more investment in expanding treatment access and overcoming system fragmentation.
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