Arizona Behavioral Health Experts Say 988 Will Create a More Appropriate and Patient-Friendly Crisis Response System – State of Reform

Behavioral health experts imagine Arizona 988 crisis response system to provide victims of emergency behavioral health situations with the same level and urgency of care as those experiencing medical emergencies.

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Justin Chase, CEO of Solari Crisis & Human Services, Rachel Rios-Richardson, evaluation associate at LeCroy & Milligan Associates, Inc., David Covington, CEO and President of RI International, and Wendy Farmer, Director of Account Management in Beacon Health Options, discussed this topic during a panel in our Health Policy Conference on the State of Arizona Reform in 2022 In May.

Rios-Richardson said that according to a study disseminated by her organization among people in the state with a live experience of calling crisis lines or 911 for behavioral health emergencies, people in Arizona are very excited about 988 and prefer to call 3 -digital number, and so the state is preparing for a big change in volume.

Chase said that although the volume of calls to 988 is expected to be large, he believes the country is well positioned and ready to introduce the new crisis response system.

“We think we’ll see that more calls across the state go to 988, but the total delta may not have that much of an impact on Arizona because [crisis response] the system and infrastructure are quite stable. “

From October 1 a a single US crisis line with 800 numbers, run solely by Solari, will take effect, consolidating the 23 advertised crisis lines currently operating in the state. Calls to 988, starting July 1, will be directed to both Solari and La Frontera Arizona. The country-wide crisis line will work in tandem with the 988 line.

Chase stressed the importance of the state system and the 988 system working together, saying that about 23,000 calls are intercepted per month in the central northern part of the state in the existing state system, making the existing system the point where most residents are Arizona currently has access to crisis care. This represents 3,000 mobile crisis units that are sent per month.

However, Chase also stressed that call centers stabilize most phone calls and do not need to send higher levels of care.

“The value of 988 is different. This is not just a delivery service, directing people to more expensive downstream services that are not needed … This is the evaluation triage and potential therapeutic intervention performed at the call center level. If [the call center] unable to meet the needs, then moves on to a higher level of care. ”

Covington said it was important for the 988 system to maintain the same level of behavioral health emergencies as medical emergencies, while transferring response services from law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS) and hospital emergency departments.

“What we have today is a system in which many are certainly involved in law enforcement at the front,” he said. “But if you need intensive support, almost everyone goes through the suffocation point of the hospital’s emergency department.

In most cases, they spend days … if you are a teenager, it can be a week or more, just spent in a little, sometimes without emergency room windows, without treatment, without support, without commitment. 988 and mobile crisis services and directly accessible crisis facilities give us a way to allow 911 and hospitals to do what they do – respond to blatant criminal activity, blatant threats to public safety and obvious non-psychiatric medical emergencies .

Chase also stressed the importance of a quick response time to the 988 crisis line.

“We have to respond as quickly and well as 911 if we want to maintain this expectation of effectiveness for individuals, because a bad experience can divert an individual from caring,” he said. “With mobile teams, we need to get on stage fast enough and with reception facilities so that we can have this open door for people to enter, or a place where first aid staff can leave people in a fast process. ”

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