CMS gives California, Kentucky the OK to offer mobile crisis intervention teams for Medicaid

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved proposals from California and Kentucky for community-based mobile crisis intervention teams to provide Medicaid crisis services.

California and Kentucky are the latest states to have mobile crisis teams approved, with Oregon being the first state to gain approval in September.

Under the American Rescue Plan, states can create Medicaid crisis teams under a program that will grant them a 85% federal match for three years, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy. This allows the on-the-ground teams to connect people with behavioral providers as a first point of care at any time of day.

“Everyone should have access to behavioral health support where they are, when they need it—especially those who are in crisis,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a news release. “This decision ensures that Californians and Kentuckians will have access to mobile crisis and other community-based supports. These resources will help to improve and save lives.”

People who utilize mobile crisis intervention teams in these states can avoid costly emergency room visits. These service teams are typically comprised of specialized professional and paraprofessional staff but require one member to be a qualified behavioral health care professional. Teams will screen, assess, stabilize and de-escalate situations as well as refer individuals to other medical services.

“California and Kentucky recognize the vital importance of breaking down barriers to meet people in crisis with the care they need,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “With these approvals, California and Kentucky join a growing number of states in helping connect people to qualified health professionals as the first point of care during a crisis. This ensures people can get the care they need when and where they need it.”

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, also implemented to address behavioral health needs, received nearly 5 million calls, texts and chats in the last year. The lifeline is meant to help LGBTQ+ youth in moments of need and prevent self-harm. Later this year, the hotline plans to add video phone service for deaf individuals.