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Mobile Mental Health

Feds Sign Off on Oregon’s Mobile Mental Crisis Intervention Service

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this week approved Oregon’s plan to cover community-based mobile crisis intervention services in Medicaid.

Instead of law enforcement transporting patients with mental health and/or substance abuse issues to local emergency departments, Oregon’s plan is to deploy trained professionals into the field to provide screening, de-escalation, and other services to these citizens 24/7.

“With this approval, Oregon will be able to connect people to a qualified health professional as the first point of care for someone in crisis, which ensures they get the care they need when and where they need it,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement.

This program stemmed from an idea created in Eugene, OR, called Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS), whereby an EMT and mental health worker are paired together to respond to certain calls. In Denver, where officials created a similar initiative called Support Team Assisted Response (STAR).

“CAHOOTS has long proven a success at de-escalating these crises by getting people the mental health help they need without involving law enforcement,” U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, said in a statement.

According to the authors of a report released in 2021, the annual rates of U.S. adults transported to EDs by law enforcement increased by almost 50% from 2009 to 2016. Of the 136,240 patients brought to EDs by law enforcement during the study period, 43.1% had a mental health diagnosis; 22% of all visits were for involuntary commitments.

The Biden administration is providing $15 million in planning grants, via the American Rescue Plan, to 20 state Medicaid agencies to develop similar initiatives. “I encourage all states to take advantage of this opportunity and work with us to expand access to these critical healthcare services,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Hospital Case Management.