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Dive Brief:

  • Oregon will launch the country’s first Medicaid-supported mobile crisis intervention program providing stabilization services to people with mental health or substance use conditions, including opioid use, the HHS announced. The program offers immediate assessment, stabilization and de-escalation help for people in crisis, and coordinates referrals for other social services like life skills training.
  • Immediate, appropriate behavioral health care can help reduce the risk of harm and the need for costly inpatient services, the HHS said. The initiative also allows law enforcement to focus more on accountable policing and less on work that should be handled by mental health counselors or social workers, the agency said.
  • Oregon was the first state to apply and gain approval for the new Medicaid option, created through the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a statement announcing the approval, encouraged additional states to take advantage of the opportunity for funding to expand access to crisis care.

Dive Insight:

The mobile intervention program is part of President Joe Biden’s strategy for addressing the country’s mental health crisis, a steadily worsening problem that has become more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden laid out plans to strengthen the national crisis response infrastructure earlier this year as part of his State of the Union agenda.

That strategy includes the transition in July to the 988 crisis hotline, which replaced the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Community-based mobile crisis intervention services such as Oregon’s are expected to support the 988 network of state and local call centers, the HHS said.

The American Rescue Plan, which became law last year, included $15 million in planning grants to help 20 state Medicaid agencies develop crisis care programs.

Oregon is the first of the 20 states that received planning grants to qualify for a higher federal Medicaid match of 85% for the next three years to reimburse mobile crisis services delivered to Medicaid beneficiaries.

People throughout the state experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis can connect to a behavioral health specialist 24 hours a day, every day of the year, the HHS said.

“Prioritizing behavioral health treatment by putting crisis care in reach for more Americans is critical — in Oregon and beyond,” Becerra said.

The Biden administration has spent $432 million in fiscal 2022 to support the 988 transition, scale up crisis center and national back-up center capacity, improve response rates, and ensure that calls are first routed to local, regional or state crisis call centers, the HHS said.

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