“I’m hopeful that this is just the beginning,” activist and attorney Gerald Griggs told theGrio about new funding for mobile crisis intervention services in the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is taking steps to help communities after announcing $15 million in funding for states to help design mobile crisis intervention services.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials announced last month the new funding opportunities for state Medicaid agencies. The initiative is supported by President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
The aim is to develop community-based mobile crisis intervention services to reach people ‘experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis outside a hospital or facility setting.’
“Investing in crisis intervention services ensures Americans experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis get the care and treatment they need,” said Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement sent to theGrio. “These grants will help states build these critical services to help communities send a responder who is trained and ready to assist people in crisis.”
During an exclusive interview with theGrio, CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure shared how this funding could help address challenges in states across the country. She also stressed the importance of meeting people where they are at.
“This really can help and ensure that we are treating people in the best way possible,” Brooks-LaSure told theGrio.
At least 13 states already dispatch Medicaid-funding mobile crisis teams and at least six other states and localities dispatch non-Medicaid funding mobile crisis teams as of September 2019, according to a source from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
While some activists continue to call for the reallocation of funds from law enforcement agencies to community-based groups, Brooks-LaSure points out that communities have their unique traits and agrees that there additionally needs to be a strong emphasis on investing in communities.
“This country is so diverse in terms of its needs,” Brooks-LaSure told theGrio. “We do need more services in the community, we do need to make sure that people are in the right setting. We don’t want people in facilities who shouldn’t be in facilities, we want them to get the care at home if that’s the right place, but it’s not in my mind either-or, it’s both and.”
Georgia is included in the states that provide mobile crisis services through its Georgia Crisis and Access Line. The 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year program assists in ways by providing telephonic crisis intervention services, dispatching mobile crisis teams, assisting individuals in finding an open crisis or detox bed and linking individuals with urgent appointment services. But some mental health advocates argue this is not enough and continue to push for more resources.
Carroll County, GA launched a special unit last April to respond to incidents and help deescalate situations involving suicide, mental health and similar scenarios, according to Times-Georgian. The team reportedly consists of a Carrollton police officer, who is also a certified paramedic, and a mental health professional. They reportedly have already responded to 100 cases.
Atlanta-based civil rights activists like Attorney Gerald Griggs, who also serves as the vice president of Atlanta NAACP, would like to see more special units with fully trained mental health experts respond to more calls in the future — without a law enforcement member on the team.
“I’m hopeful that this is just the beginning,” Griggs told theGrio, as he applauded the administration for expanding the funding opportunity while stressing that a lot more needs to be done. He says ultimately, community development needs to be front and center.
Griggs has been on the scene where agencies responded to crises around Atlanta and he observed how community members weren’t as distressed when responding to a mental health first responder who was able to deescalate a situation versus a police officer who agitated the individual, he shares. Griggs stated that there are exceptions in cases of extreme and serious danger, with one example being someone barricading themselves with weapons, where it would make more sense for an officer to respond.
“My hope is that this is the first step,” Griggs told theGrio. “We could start actually showing that reimagining public safety and by investing in crisis interveners that are separate apart from law enforcement, we can get results that lower crime, that respond adequately to mental health distress and also help fix the underlying problems.”
Griggs emphasizes the importance of investing in communities and addressing the root causes of what led to crises in the first place.
“Public safety is impacted when they have quality housing, quality lifestyle, quality education, when healthcare is taken care of, those things mitigate against potential crime and violence,” Griggs said.
Along with other concerned community members, Griggs hopes to see safer communities and plans to monitor the impacts of mobile crisis intervention services as they become more available.
Final applications for states and territories to apply for the funding are due Aug. 13 at 3 pm ET. To view the Notice of Funding Opportunity, which provides more details on requirements and eligibility, visit grants.gov and search for the announcement by CFDA# 93.639.
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