If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
A Tech Implementation Checklist for 988 Crisis Response Teams
by Core Solutions on October 10, 2023
Amid a divisive cultural moment, ongoing health crises, and a challenging economic landscape, many healthcare facilities have seen an uptick in mental health needs across multiple communities. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that between 2015 and 2019, a staggering 10.6 million adults — 4.3% of the total U.S. population — reported having suicidal thoughts during the preceding year.
What does this mean for our healthcare system?
The need for equipped providers who work within a coordinated continuum of crisis care is greater than ever.
And to best serve the clients in their care, these crisis professionals need access to the right technologies that improve their operations and support the service delivery continuum. Here’s what that looks like.
Characteristics of the Ideal Crisis Continuum
When behavioral health or substance abuse emergencies occur, clients often need varying levels of care across a range of facilities and providers. As they’re moved through the phases of crisis response, each transition offers an opportunity for education, care coordination and communication that — when done effectively — can foster life-saving care.
This ideal systematized crisis continuum is:
Effective crisis care response primarily starts with the core 988 crisis call center, whose volunteers and trained professionals field initial emergencies and give clients hands-on support. The International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) claims that 988 providers need to align with core elements of systemic quality crisis care and other elements of the mental health care continuum, including:
- High-tech crisis call centers,
- A 24/7 non-law-enforcement mobile crisis team,
- Crisis stabilization centers, and
- Essential principles and practices governing care pathways.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), each 988 team should be not only connected to other groups to create seamless care pathways, but also equipped to address recovery needs, provide trauma-informed support, and practice standard safety procedures.
Fully Integrated Into the Broader Care System:
To support each client’s unique needs throughout the care continuum, SAMHSA notes, “crisis systems must not operate in isolation.” When crisis response teams and mobile units can seamlessly transition clients into the broader healthcare system, clients receive better, more coordinated care tailored to their needs.
Healthcare is always more effective when it's customized to the client. Effective and connected care requires providers to understand their clients’ lived experiences, then adapt their response to those identities and backgrounds.
One key to forging this ideal client-focused continuum of care, according to IIMHL? Harnessing the right data and technologies that enable smooth transitions and effective coordination.
5 Ways To Make the Most of Crisis Management Technology
Crisis response providers and call centers are in many ways the backbone of an effective care continuum. That’s why it’s critical for teams to have access to technologies that allow them to do their best work.
Here are five actions crisis teams should take to effectively adopt — and use — care-enhancing technologies.1. Find the Right Workforce Management System:
In July 2022, the National Suicide Prevention hotline shifted from a 10-digit to a three-digit number: 988. Since the 988 number is easier to use, many call centers have already seen an increase in calls — one that’s projected to continue growing.
The volume increase caused by the suicide hotline number change means it’s even more critical for call centers to effectively staff and manage performance. Both Vibrant Emotional Health (the current administrator of the 988 number) and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) advise crisis response teams to adopt workforce management systems that:
- Forecast volume intervals and determine staffing levels
- Monitor staff performance in real time
- Work with existing call center systems
- Support teams in handling surge capacity
- Schedule call agents and manage day-to-day assignments
2. Adopt an EHR Platfrom That Streamlines Coordination:
A coordinated crisis response is only as good as the communication between providers. Electronic health record (EHR) platforms that enable effective communication and information-sharing can allow providers to offer not only more client-aligned care, but also seamless transitions from one care setting to the next.
SAMHSA outlines five levels of coordination across the crisis continuum, each increasing in degree of integration:
- Informal agency relationships across facilities
- Shared protocols
- Formal, coordinated partnerships
- Data-sharing between facilities
- Fully integrated and immersive care across the continuum
To reach level five, SAMHSA states that providers must implement integrated EHR systems that “employ online, real-time, and 24/7 ability to communicate about, update, and monitor available resources in the network of provider agencies.”
3. Ensure Your EHR Includes an Integrated Client Tracking System:
A client tracking system that’s fully integrated into an EHR platform can help teams consolidate population-based data to identify trends or patterns, better understand and serve repeat clients, and improve their overall quality of care.
The National Council for Mental Wellbeing recommends adopting an integrated client-tracking system that can:
- Identify clients who require follow-up communication
- Notify providers when a client contacts the center
- Enable teams to create, access, and securely share care plans
- Allow teams to use behavioral health data for quality assurance
4. Use Survey Tools To Gauge The Employee Experience:
Crisis response providers are regularly exposed to challenging situations that, according to NASMHPD, can cause compassion fatigue, sleep problems, and even depression or PTSD.
Effective practice management systems enable leaders to survey employees to evaluate their well-being, allowing them to make process and culture changes needed to best support employees. Changes could involve adding on-site wellness coaches, offering more behavioral health benefits, and creating stress management programs.
NASMHPD recommends using practice management software regularly for:
- Weekly pulse surveys
- Annual employee engagement surveys
- Annual organizational health surveys
5. Employ Telehealth Services to Reach All Communities:
Not everyone in a mental health or substance abuse crisis has reliable access to a call number, and many prefer to use other methods of engaging with care providers. That’s why it’s important for modern crisis response teams to offer comprehensive telehealth, telepsychiatry, chat, and texting options.
According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, offering a variety of communication pathways can help care teams:
- Provide care access to traditionally underserved areas, such as rural locations
- Give younger clients and those living in unstable environments the ability to choose the best communication method for their situation
- Reduce wait times, helping clients get treatment quickly
- Offer new tools for internal operations, clinical supervision, and team meetings
Enabling the Ideal Continuum With EHR Tech
To meet the growing needs of individuals in the modern world and to help them adapt their operations to 988 response after the suicide hotline number change, today’s crisis response teams need access to a strong technology infrastructure that enables communication, coordination, and client-centered care — at every stage of the continuum. Equipping teams with the right technologies can speed up crisis response, smooth out pathways, and improve quality of care — ultimately saving lives in the process.
Core Solutions’ Cx360 platform is one such technology. On top of providing teams with real-time client analytics, workforce management capabilities, and integrated telehealth options, the Cx360 platform delivers a number of other benefits, including:
- Evidence-based clinical tools for assessing conditions and treatments
- Call tracking that helps marketing teams turn connections into leads
- Compliance tracking to meet federal and local regulations
- Smart treatment planning for crafting individualized goals and objectives
- 360-degree behavioral health assessments that can guide future treatment
Set up a tour to learn how our Cx360 platform for 988 services and crisis management integrates seamlessly with your hotline operations.
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