CMS Approves California & Kentucky Requests to Provide Essential Behavioral Health Services Through Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams

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Six states have adopted this option under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to provide individuals experiencing mental health or substance use disorder crises with community-based interventions and stabilization

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today approved proposals from California and Kentucky for community-based mobile crisis intervention teams to provide Medicaid crisis services. This marks six states that have expanded access to community-based mental health and substance use crisis care through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. California and Kentucky will be able to provide Medicaid services through mobile crisis teams by connecting eligible individuals in crisis to a behavioral health provider 24 hours per day, 365 days a year.

“Everyone should have access to behavioral health support where they are, when they need it – especially those who are in crisis,” said Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This decision ensures that Californians and Kentuckians will have access to mobile crisis and other community-based supports. These resources will help to improve and save lives.”

“California and Kentucky recognize the vital importance of breaking down barriers to meet people in crisis with the care they need,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “With these approvals, California and Kentucky join a growing number of states in helping connect people to qualified health professionals as the first point of care during a crisis. This ensures people can get the care they need when and where they need it.”

The Biden-Harris Administration has made addressing the nation’s mental health crisis a top priority, and this new option gives states an opportunity to support community-based mobile crisis intervention teams to provide services for individuals with Medicaid. Mobile crisis intervention teams aim to provide rapid response, individual assessment, and crisis de-escalation by trained behavioral health professionals and paraprofessionals. The multidisciplinary team provides screening and assessment; stabilization and de-escalation; and coordination with and referrals to health, social, and other services, as needed. This helps states better integrate behavioral health services into their Medicaid programs – a cornerstone of the sustainable, public health-focused support networks our communities need.

Providing fast, appropriate care to someone in crisis may reduce the need for costly inpatient services, and this new option will help California and Kentucky expand access to behavioral health professionals as the initial contact for someone in crisis. California’s and Kentucky’s state plan amendments add mobile crisis response crisis planning; facilitation of a warm handoff; referrals to ongoing supports; and follow up check-ins for individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis. Kentucky is also adding other services to the crisis continuum, including stabilization services beyond those provided by mobile crisis teams, which are delivered in the community following a crisis event.

Additionally, to help further address behavioral health needs, this month Health & Human Services and its 988 Lifeline partners announced the addition of Spanish text and chat services. Specialized services for LGBTQI+ youth and young adults were also added earlier this month, following a successful pilot test earlier this year. The 988 Lifeline is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive strategy to address the nation’s mental health crisis, and to-date, the Administration has invested nearly $1 billion into this life-saving initiative. This investment is driving an increase in calls, texts, and chats, with nearly 5 million contacts answered in the past year – and helped millions of people in crisis.

Today’s announcement is the latest in Health & Human Services’ ongoing efforts to support President Biden’s whole-of-government strategy to transform mental health services for all Americans – a key part of the President’s Unity Agenda. For more information on California’s and Kentucky’s approval, visit Medicaid.gov.

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