CMS Approves ‘First-in-the-Nation’ Medicaid Mobile Behavioral Health Crisis Program

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Monday announced that Oregon will be the first state in the country to roll out a mobile crisis intervention program in Medicaid. The focus of the new program: behavioral health care.

Leaders from HHS and the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are touting this as a first-of-its-kind initiative, one they are strongly encouraging other states to follow. Mobile crisis programs are one part of the Biden administration’s larger plans to increase access and equity in behavioral health.

The new Medicaid amendment, which became available to states in April of 2022, enables Oregon to provide mobile care to individuals who are experiencing mental health or substance use disorder. CMS is now encouraging more state’s to join Oregon’s lead.


“We hope that other states follow Oregon’s lead. CMS and our state partners have an immense ability and opportunity to help people living with behavioral health conditions,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said during a press call on Monday. “Medicaid covers behavioral health services for millions in the United States. And we will continue to strengthen and expand access to these critical services.”

The mobile crisis teams, made up of behavioral health care professionals and paraprofessionals, can be dispatched to a person in crisis 24/7.

Teams are able to provide screening, assessment, stabilization and de-escalation services. Additionally, teams can coordinate with health and social services.


The American Rescue Plan has allotted $15 million in planning grants to help 20 state Medicaid agencies get these programs up and running. If the programs see promising results, more money may follow.

“I recently had the opportunity to join [Sen. Ron Wyden] (D-Ore.) to visit a mobile crisis site in Eugene, Oregon, last month,” Brooks-LaSure said. “It was wonderful to see local officials, including the police department and health care providers, collaborate to provide this essential care. CMS’ partnership with Oregon contributes to the Biden-Harris administration’s whole-of-government strategy to transform mental health services for all Americans.”

Additionally, 988 call centers will be able to make a request for a mobile crisis team.

“Oregon’s model for community-based mobile crisis intervention team is centered on the value that a behavioral health crisis is met with a behavioral health response,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a press call Monday. “As such, all services will be culturally linguistically and developmentally appropriate. Instead of response by law enforcement, there will be trained individuals who are skilled in crisis intervention such as de-escalation techniques, crisis screening and assessment.”

The Biden administration has made behavioral health services a top priority.

For example, in July, the White House pledged nearly $300 million to expand mental health services in schools. Additionally, earlier this month, it awarded $79.1 million in overdose prevention grants.

In 2022, the Biden administration has invested $432 million to support the 988 transition.

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