The National Governor’s Association (NGA) released a new report identifying strategies to promote equity in behavioral health services across the crisis continuum of care, including discussion on disparities in care access.

The COVID-19 pandemic called widespread attention to existing disparities in health care access—a shift which, coupled with existing gaps in response to community behavioral health concerns, has helped foster bipartisan support for reforms to the behavioral health crisis response system. National legislation and federal investments are laying the foundation for states to examine their current crisis services and create a robust system of support for individuals experiencing a behavioral health emergency.

A culmination of activities by multiple federal entities has provided an opportunity for states to improve outcomes for individuals who are in the midst of a behavioral health crisis, as well as for their families and entire communities. As a single point on the behavioral health care continuum, an effective emergency response may influence the success of the whole system. States should take advantage of this national momentum to reimagine their crisis response systems with an eye toward increasing equity and aligning efforts with the goals of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Best Practices Toolkit.

State leaders face an array of challenges in addressing the behavioral health needs of all communities. Flexible approaches are necessary in promoting a crisis response system that is connected to necessary supports and centered on equity within and across all communities. Current and future potential federal investments in behavioral health, and in crisis response specifically, present states with an opportunity to focus on those communities that have been most challenged with access issues. This brief will identify overarching strategies to enhance cultural responsiveness and promote equity in behavioral health services across the crisis continuum to engage affected communities, incorporate the voice of people with lived experience (PWLE) and establish processes for accountability. Read more

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