• Wed. May 31st, 2023

Behavioral Wellness Crisis Response: Findings from a Survey of State Medicaid Applications


May 25, 2023

Current efforts to create and increase behavioral overall health crisis response systems have been marked by quite a few important federal initiatives. These incorporate national suggestions for crisis care place forth by SAMHSA in 2020, an initiative for states to use Medicaid funding for mobile crisis solutions via the American Rescue Strategy Act (ARPA) in 2021, and the 988 crisis line rollout in 2022. Most not too long ago, the Consolidated Appropriations Act–passed in December 2022– incorporated quite a few provisions aimed at enhancing and evaluating the behavioral overall health crisis continuum. This surge in action has grown in light of longstanding and worsening behavioral overall health troubles, tragic incidents involving law enforcement, and expanding reports of psychiatric boarding in emergency departments (EDs).

Medicaid – the single biggest payer of behavioral overall health solutions in the nation – is especially properly positioned to companion with state behavioral overall health authorities and other stakeholders to program, implement, and monitor the behavioral overall health crisis response systems.  Additional, the Medicaid population may possibly be particularly impacted by these alterations, as 39% have mild, moderate, or serious mental overall health or substance use disorder situations.

To improved realize the improvement, implementation, and coverage of crisis solutions in state Medicaid applications, KFF performed a Behavioral Wellness Survey of state Medicaid applications as a supplement to its 22nd annual spending budget survey of Medicaid officials performed by KFF and Wellness Management Associates (HMA). We surveyed state Medicaid officials about the solutions that had been in location in state fiscal year (FY) 2022 or implemented/planned for FY 2023, as properly as challenges they face. Forty-4 states (which includes the District of Columbia) responded to the survey, even though response prices varied by query. This situation short utilizes this survey information to answer 3 important inquiries:

  • What are the core behavioral overall health crisis solutions and how generally are they covered by states?
  • Are states pursuing possibilities for enhanced federal funding for crisis solutions?
  • What challenges are confronting Medicaid applications in the implementation and delivery of crisis solutions?


Crisis behavioral overall health solutions deliver access to educated mental overall health pros for men and women experiencing mental overall health or substance use emergencies–an option to emergency departments and law enforcement. Literature has shown that crisis solutions divert people today away from psychiatric hospitalization and decrease the will need for intervention inside emergency departments or by law enforcement. It is estimated that law enforcement officers invest a sizable quantity of their time responding to behavioral overall health calls, whilst ED visits for behavioral overall health causes continue to rise having said that, pros in these settings are normally not equipped to treat mental overall health situations or safely de-escalate crises. With no access to needed proof-primarily based care, mental overall health crises can worsen or prolong.

National suggestions recognize 3 core crisis solutions that must be accessible to any person who is experiencing a behavioral overall health crisis: crisis hotlines, mobile crisis units, and crisis stabilization. When crisis residential and crisis respite solutions are a element of the crisis continuum and may possibly also deliver interventions to aid to stabilize crisis, they are not viewed as core solutions. Even though these crisis solutions do not necessarily have to be accessed in a certain order, Crisis Now illustrates how they may possibly be accessed and utilized.  Core crisis solutions are described under in Table 1:

SAMHSA’s national suggestions report that integration of solutions across systems will decrease fragmentation and increase care transitions. Examples of technologies and integration that may possibly aid incorporate a method for assessing crisis levels, a crisis bed registry, GPS mobile crisis dispatch, and the capacity for crisis employees to schedule appointments. Additional, information dashboards may possibly deliver ongoing insights into service utilization and effect of crisis solutions.

Medicaid Coverage of Core Crisis Solutions

About 3-quarters of responding states (33 of 45) do not cover all 3 core crisis solutions for FFS adults, but most states cover at least 1 core crisis service (41 of 45) (Figure 1). Medicaid applications are much less most likely to cover crisis solutions compared to other behavioral overall health service categories. In spite of this normally decrease coverage, the landscape of crisis response systems is evolving across states, driven in element by the chance for enhanced federal matching funds for certified mobile crisis solutions (see subsequent section of this short). For instance, Massachusetts is implementing a multi-year roadmap for behavioral overall health reform that involves a 24/7 aid line, clinical assessment, and referral to therapy. The state of Montana is functioning toward aligning its crisis solutions with the Crisis Now Model. Crisis hotline solutions are obtainable to anyone free of charge across all states, but some Medicaid programs help to finance crisis hotlines by reimbursing crisis hotline solutions, which might include 988 or other hotlines.

States report larger coverage prices for mobile crisis and crisis stabilization units but decrease coverage for crisis hotlines beneath adult charge-for-service (FFS) Medicaid. Nonetheless, it is unclear how widespread these solutions are inside states and irrespective of whether they align with ideal practice suggestions, such as trauma-informed care. (These findings do not account for variations in coverage supplied by managed care organizations (MCOs) or Section 1115 waivers.)

  • Practically 3-quarters of responding states (33 of 45) reported mobile crisis coverage for adults in FFS applications. Men and women experiencing a crisis may possibly acquire aid from mobile crisis teams, which are typically dispatched from crisis hotlines, providers, emergency healthcare solutions, or law enforcement.
  • Practically two-thirds of responding states (28 of 45) report adult FFS coverage of crisis stabilization units. Investigation suggests that care supplied in crisis stabilization facilities may possibly generate price savings compared to emergency division or inpatient care.
  • Crisis hotlines are the least regularly covered core crisis service (22 of 45 responding states). Crisis hotline solutions are obtainable to anyone free of charge across all states, but some Medicaid programs help to finance crisis hotlines by reimbursing crisis hotline solutions, which might include 988 or other hotlines. 1 explanation why coverage for this crisis service is decrease than other people may possibly be the difficulty in getting insurance coverage data in the course of emergency crisis calls. Some states are locating techniques to address this situation, with the National Association of State Mental Wellness System Directors (NASMHPD) reporting that some states are surveying callers about Medicaid coverage and using an administrative federal match primarily based on share of Medicaid-covered callers.

Most of the states that cover mobile crisis also report that they presently need or are preparing to need peer supports on their teams. Peer supports are men and women with lived expertise, and study and national suggestions assistance their involvement in mobile crisis teams. A total of 7 states essential peer supports on mobile crisis teams as of FY2022, with 13 far more states preparing to need it in FY2023. Quite a few states report that they encourage peer assistance, but do not make it mandatory. Other states have plans to incorporate peer supports in subsequent years or on a subset of teams. Arizona, for instance, plans to need peer assistance specialists on 25% of mobile teams in FY 2023.

Possibilities for Enhanced Federal Funding for Crisis Solutions

More than half of responding states (28 of 44) report that they have taken up or program to implement the American Rescue Strategy Act (ARPA) mobile crisis intervention solutions solution (Figure three). The solution beneath ARPA is obtainable to states for five years, starting April 1, 2022. Medicaid applications that deliver qualifying neighborhood-primarily based mobile crisis solutions beneath this solution will acquire 85% enhanced federal matching funds for the initial 3 years of implementation. This enhanced funding will have to supplement, not supplant, the prior level of state funding for qualifying mobile crisis solutions. When it is not needed for mobile crisis solutions to be obtainable across the state or to all populations to qualify for enhanced match, states will have to meet particular criteria, such as 24/7 service amongst participating providers. Amongst states that chose to pursue the ARPA solution, eight states reported implementation of qualifying mobile crisis solutions in FY 2022 11 states reported plans to implement in FY 2023 and 9 in FY 2024 (Figure three). Amongst states without the need of plans to implement ARPA mobile crisis solutions or with an undetermined status, causes for not pursuing this solution incorporated pre-current non-ARPA crisis solutions and/or difficulty understanding and meeting the ARPA needs for the enhanced match. By means of funding supplied by the ARPA, preparing grants had been awarded to 20 state Medicaid programs–to aid them prepare for the implementation of qualifying mobile crisis solutions.

Much less than 1-quarter of states (eight of 43) are working with or program to access enhanced administrative match to assistance the technologies required to assistance implementation of crisis get in touch with centers or other crisis solutions. SAMHSA’s ideal practice suggestions advocate for an “air site visitors control” model for crisis solutions that involves a method for assessing crisis levels, wait instances, and linkage to further solutions, as properly as the capacity for crisis employees to schedule appointments, a crisis bed registry, GPS mobile crisis dispatch, and functionality monitoring dashboards. ARPA guidance explains that states can apply a 90% enhanced administrative match for the improvement of particular technologies systems to aid implement crisis solutions (and acquire an ongoing 75% match for operations of these systems). Kentucky and Massachusetts are applying these funds toward crisis hotline integration or improvement, whilst New Jersey focuses on mobile response teams and vacancy tracking.

Challenges Confronting Medicaid Applications in the Implementation and Delivery of Crisis Solutions

State Medicaid applications generally collaborate with several state agencies to design and style and implement crisis solutions. To achieve a deeper understanding of the barriers linked with the implementation and delivery of these solutions, we asked state Medicaid applications about the challenges states have faced or anticipate facing. In addition, we asked them to recognize which of these places posed the most substantial obstacles.

Virtually all responding states (38 of 44) reported experiencing or expecting at least 1 obstacle to implementing crisis solutions, especially workforce shortages and geography-primarily based challenges (Figure four). Workforce shortages and geographic challenges are not special to crisis solutions, as other places of behavioral overall health report comparable barriers. Other challenges incorporate provider instruction requirements and scope-of-practice limitations. When we asked states to recognize their greatest challenge, they overwhelmingly pointed to the shortage of a certified workforce as their most substantial obstacle.

  • Workforce Shortages. Locating certified mental overall health pros prepared to operate in crisis solutions and deliver about-the-clock care, specially overnight, is a substantial challenge. This higher-anxiety atmosphere contributes to higher turnover prices, complicating the fulfillment of some ARPA needs, such as keeping a 24/7 two-individual group. To address these workforce shortages, quite a few states, which includes Nevada, have implemented tactics like allocating commence-up funds to aid providers expand their crisis workforce.
  • Geographic Challenges. Enhanced travel instances in rural places can outcome in longer response instances for men and women in will need. Some states have viewed as telehealth as a answer, even though limitations exist for these without the need of smartphones, reputable solutions, or comfort working with them. Predicting demand in rural places is difficult due to much less concentrated populations, complicating 24/7 multidisciplinary group staffing. Employees security is also a concern in places with poor cell telephone or online reception. In addition, states with substantial tribal populations face added challenges in preparing and coordinating efforts across agencies, MCOs, and providers.
  • Provider instruction requirements. New and current crisis pros commonly will need initial and ongoing instruction in crisis solutions and population-certain subjects. States emphasize the significance of delivering trauma-informed, developmentally, and culturally suitable care, which may possibly necessitate further trainings. States recognize the significance of these trainings, but point out that mainly because of workforce shortages, it is tricky to take the current crisis workforce out of the field for trainings. States are also challenged by a shortage of obtainable trainings. To address the scarcity of obtainable trainings in its state, Massachusetts is funding a behavioral overall health instruction clearinghouse containing absolutely free trainings.
  • Scope-of-practice limitations. Some states report that the roles and responsibilities of non-licensed employees, such as certified peers, are not generally defined by state licensing boards. The shortage of employees and the restricted roles they can carry out also influence crisis solutions delivery. For instance, in 1 state, a substantial proportion of the workforce is comprised of unlicensed certified mental overall health pros who can’t diagnose or deliver assessments for crisis solutions.

In addition to the challenges specified above, quite a few states supplied data about further challenges:

  • Funding. Some states are concerned about sustainability of financing for crisis solutions, especially as the ARPA enhanced funding (85% federal match) for neighborhood-primarily based mobile crisis solutions is efficient only for the initial 3 years of implementation. For instance, Oregon recommends permanent implementation of the enhanced federal match for qualifying crisis solutions. At present, crisis service financing relies heavily on nearby and state funding and block grants—though some states have added telecommunication Medicaid is the key and 1 of the only insurers reimbursing for these services—even even though people today with other kinds of coverage are also served by behavioral overall health crisis systems. For instance, Vermont points out that crisis solutions must be obtainable to all regardless of insurance coverage and identified the lack of mobile crisis coverage from Medicare and industrial payers as a challenge.
  • “Connecting” crisis care and other challenges. States also reported issues about creating interconnections among 988 and the state’s current infrastructure for efficient “dispatching”, as properly as enhancing cultural awareness and sensitivity to communities.

Searching Ahead

Maintaining pace with bigger federal and state initiatives, lots of Medicaid applications are creating or strengthening behavioral overall health crisis solutions. 988’s launch and enhanced federal funding possibilities have sparked developments, but states are unsure what will take place when enhanced funding possibilities expire. In addition, workforce shortages, inquiries about linking and coordinating across systems, and other logistical troubles continue to pose challenges each inside Medicaid and crisis systems normally.

Current federal initiatives aim to mitigate some of these challenges. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, passed in December 2022, involves quite a few provisions aimed at enhancing and evaluating the behavioral overall health crisis continuum. The Act establishes the Behavioral Wellness Crisis Coordinating Workplace inside SAMHSA, directing it to recognize and publish ideal practices. In addition, the Act tasks many agencies with making reports that evaluate the functionality measures and outcomes of the behavioral overall health crisis continuum. Federal investments in the improvement and implementation of the 988 quantity have helped Lifeline increase answer prices, even with increases in outreach volume.

In spite of current advances in crisis solutions, uncertainties persist, which includes inquiries of how to integrate solutions across the crisis continuum and how to safe extended-term sustainable funding. According to SAMHSA, crisis systems will be most efficient when they can coordinate with each and every other and connect with other overall health care places. The financing of crisis response systems is nonetheless emerging, with Medicaid presently a primary insurer reimbursing for crisis solutions. Nonetheless, Medicaid’s coverage is, at present, much less extensive for crisis solutions compared to other categories of behavioral overall health added benefits, even though states may possibly continue to improve this coverage in coming years. As crisis response systems continue to develop and expand, states are navigating a wide variety of concerns—including workforce shortages, instruction requirements, geographic challenges, and uncertainty about sustainable funding.

If you or somebody you know is thinking about suicide, get in touch with the 988 Suicide &amp Crisis Lifeline at 988

This short draws on operate completed beneath contract with Wellness Management Associates (HMA) consultants Angela Bergefurd, Gina Eckart, Kathleen Gifford, Roxanne Kennedy, Gina Lasky, and Lauren Niles.