CMS Announces New Support for Mental Health and SUD Crisis Intervention Teams

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revealed new support for states to get behavioral health crisis intervention services to those experiencing mental health- or addiction-related crises in real-time.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which became law in March, grants CMS new authority to provide states with additional funding and tools to enhance community-based mobile crisis intervention services for Medicaid beneficiaries.

The law calls for additional funding for these state-run programs for up to five years if they qualify. This new authority also allows states to develop community-specific programs by allowing states to apply for the new option under several different approval statutes.


“These services are a vital resource for people in moments of crisis, and also connect individuals to the behavioral health services and support needed for long-term recovery,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a news release. “Effective mobile crisis intervention services ensure a qualified health professional is the first point of care for someone in crisis while helping to avoid unnecessary emergency room use and hospitalizations.”

Announced Tuesday, the new option for supporting these programs requires states to build response teams that include one qualified behavioral health care professional who is able to provide an appropriate mental health assessment. States may also add substance use and mental health crisis response professionals. The teams are tasked with providing screening and assessment; stabilization and de-escalation; and coordination with and referrals to health, social and other services, the release states.

In general, community-based mobile crisis intervention services are meant to give people in a behavioral health crisis access to help 24/7 via teams of behavioral health professionals and paraprofessionals, as opposed to law enforcement officers being the first point of contact. The release states that those who receive screening services in a crisis often are able to have better outcomes and avoid needing higher levels of care.


In September, CMS announced that it approved $15 million in planning grants to 20 states seeking to expand community-based mobile crisis intervention services for Medicaid beneficiaries.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to tackling behavioral health challenges relying on proven methods,” Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, CMS’ parent organization, said in the release. “Thanks to resources provided by the American Rescue Plan, states now have an opportunity through their Medicaid programs to expand behavioral health support in their communities. Where needed, behavioral health experts, not law enforcement, should be the first responders to mental health and substance misuse crises.”

In a letter sent to state Medicaid officials, CMS states that successful community-based mobile crisis intervention services focus on helping those in crisis find rapid relief, connect with those experiencing a crisis in their preferred location, avoid law enforcement involvement, and should only seek hand-offs to facility-based services when absolutely needed. Best practices for these teams also call for trained peers who have experienced recovery from addiction or other behavioral health issues, the letter states.

On top of the team of behavioral health professionals, these programs ought to be supported by a 24/7 call center that integrates the crisis team and short-term receiving and stabilization facilities that act as the launching point for further support and services.

The need for additional and creative solutions to America’s addiction crisis found new resonance when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over 100,000 people died from a drug overdose in a 12-month period ending in May. Death via opioid overdose — including prescription and illicit drugs — make up 75% of estimated deaths.

As the nation grapples with how to address the addiction crisis, investors see value in being in the business of providing addiction treatment.
Earlier in the month, Behavioral Health Business reported that two private equity firms acquired majority ownership in Scottsdale, Arizona-based addiction treatment provider Community Medical Services and that a startup that seeks to bring telehealth to medication-assisted opioid treatment called Ophelia Health landed $50 million in investment.

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