How do we improve outcomes for behavioral health crises?

Communities are seeking new ways to respond to behavioral health crises, that reduce the possibilities of harm and meet the needs of individuals and their families. As policymakers look to evaluate innovations, they seek metrics of success that include not only administrative data, but the experiences of practitioners and those directly affected by mental health concerns.

The need to transform responses to behavioral health crises has captured national attention. Some communities have adopted models that remove police from certain situations; others utilize multi-disciplinary response teams (MDRT) that pair a law enforcement officer with a mental health professional, social worker, and/or paramedic. While a wide range of models–including emergency call centers, mobile crisis teams, specialized police teams, and crisis stabilization centers–have been operating for decades, little is known about how well they work and how they could be optimized.

The first step toward building a solid foundation for evaluation is to create consensus on the metrics that will be necessary to assess outcomes, while ensuring that these data advance equity and person-centered crisis response.  People in many communities— especially minorities, low-income residents, and people with behavioral health issues—often feel ill served by traditional emergency response systems and are therefore reluctant to engage them. 

Using our Firsthand Framework for Policy Innovation, Possibility Lab researchers partnered with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and UC Berkeley’s Risk Resilience Research Lab to engage diverse stakeholders in developing community-sourced outcome metrics that prioritize how individuals experience crisis services. By focusing on input from MDRT members, individuals, and their families, we aim to ensure that those who are most directly affected by the current infrastructure play a central role in the design of metrics, quality improvements, and evaluations of new options for crisis response. 



Participatory Methods for Evaluating New Approaches to Mental Health Crisis Response

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