New Medicaid option promotes enhanced mental health, substance use crisis care

Jan. 4, 2022

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is working with states to promote access to Medicaid services for people with mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) crises.

Authorized under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP), states have a new option for supporting community-based mobile crisis intervention services for individuals with Medicaid. Mobile crisis intervention services are essential tools to meet people in crisis where they are and rapidly provide critical services to people experiencing mental health or substance use crises by connecting then to a behavioral health specialist 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. This new option will help states integrate these services into their Medicaid programs, a critical component in establishing a sustainable and public health-focused support network.

While several states have community-based mobile crisis intervention services in place, the ARP grants CMS new authority to provide states with additional resources and tools to enhance these programs. The ARP provides additional federal funding to states for qualifying mobile crisis intervention services for three years. This new Medicaid option also offers flexibility for states to design programs that work for their communities, allowing states to apply for this new option under several Medicaid authorities.

Community-based mobile crisis intervention services, usually comprised of professional and paraprofessional staff, are able to respond quickly to crisis situations and provide individual assessment and crisis resolution. This new option will help states expand access to behavioral health professionals as the initial contact for someone in crisis. Providing immediate and appropriate care to someone in crisis may reduce the need for costly inpatient services.

The new Medicaid option requires that crisis response teams include one qualified behavioral healthcare professional who is able to provide an assessment within scope of practice requirements under state law. States can add other professionals and paraprofessionals with expertise in substance use and/or mental health crisis response. The teams are tasked with providing screening and assessment; stabilization and de-escalation; and coordination with and referrals to health, social and other services, as needed.

Separately, CMS also recently announced that $15 million in planning grants have been awarded to 20 states to support development of community-based mobile crisis intervention services for people with Medicaid.

HHS release