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Report Examines the Models and Issues of Behavioral Heath Crisis Services

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund

In a report prepared for the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, HMA Principal Steve Fitton and Senior Consultant Esther Reagan examine the models and issues of behavioral health crisis services.

Many people with behavioral health (mental illness and/or substance use disorder [SUD]) issues are arriving in hospital emergency departments (EDs) and not being well served in that setting. The ED is the wrong place at the wrong time for many patients – and for many reasons. These include being discharged prematurely, long waits in noisy EDs may exacerbate symptoms, the EDs may not have the professional staff best suited to provide services, and the ED itself is an expensive setting and can result in unnecessary and costly admissions for public and private insurers.

A number of models have been developed with the goal of improving the behavioral health emergency response environment. This report explores several models, including mobile crisis teams, co-located and dedicated behavioral health crisis emergency services units, behavioral health staffing in hospital EDs, and standalone behavioral health crisis centers. Strategies for moving forward, including addressing challenges in multiple areas are outlined as well.