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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.

Behavioral Health Crisis Data: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

6 Challenges Faced by 988 and Crisis Center Teams & How Tech Can Help

A year after the launch of the 988 Lifeline, more calls than ever are being answered, increasing the number of people who are able to receive help during a behavioral health crisis.

To sustain this forward momentum, it's critical that crisis centers collect and monitor relevant crisis data. Accurate data helps inform long-term strategies and illuminates areas in which education is needed to improve outcomes.

Data from calls to the 988 hotline can also enhance crisis center operations and ensure that all communities are considered when it comes to behavioral health care, while potentially contributing to crisis prevention efforts. A robust technology platform makes such data collection possible, summarizing it into accessible, digestible reports that can be easily shared.

Get the eBook: Essential Role of Technology for Today's 988 Crisis Centers

The value of 988 mental health hotline data

Tracking crisis center data is essential not only to measure performance and secure valuable funding and support for 988 response, but moreover, to highlight ways in which this crucial tool can be improved to better aid communities still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic:

​​Driving awareness and understanding

The 988 Lifeline has been a significant, positive development in the behavioral health field, but there are still communities that may not be aware of this resource. This is particularly alarming because last year, suicide rates in the U.S. reached an all-time high. Understanding which communities have made use of the hotline and the populations that have not can inform marketing campaigns that increase awareness of it and its purpose. Data can also dispel misinformation about how callers are treated and ease fears about involuntary psychiatric commitment and over-involvement of law enforcement.

Optimizing crisis management and operations

Data analysis also helps to identify patterns and trends in behavioral health crisis calls and referrals, enabling crisis centers to optimize staff and resource allocation so that if call answer volume remains high, response and care is delivered appropriately and in a timely manner. This can lead to increased cost savings, more effective call handling, reduced wait times for callers, overall improved service delivery, and improved outcomes.

Understanding population needs

Another major benefit of crisis center data is that, when it includes demographic information, it reveals insights into which segments of the population are at highest risk for behavioral health and substance abuse problems. This information can assist local leaders as they develop resources, programs, and interventions to prevent diagnoses from escalating. For example, 988 data in combination with data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health highlighted worrying statistics for young people, with suicide the second-leading cause of death among children 10 to 14 and people 25 to 34 years old. This indicated the importance of text and chat to reach these populations and helped spur additional funding and resources to reach individuals in trouble.

Data can further highlight disparities in crisis prevention service access. By identifying underserved or marginalized communities, leaders can work to provide more equitable access to behavioral health care, particularly when it would reduce the need for use of the 988 mental health hotline.

Supporting long-term decision-making

Finally, tracking data is the only way to know what a crisis center's outcomes are. If outcomes are not as positive as desired, it helps to start reviewing the data to see what's working and what's not. Data can inform decision-making on behavioral health crisis response at operational and policy levels, contributing to better outcomes for not only individuals in crisis, but the broader community.

Examples of crisis center data

SAMHSA's national guidelines outline three critical elements of any integrated crisis system: regional crisis call centers, crisis mobile team response, and crisis receiving and stabilization facilities.

Below are some of the basic types of crisis center data that are tracked for each element of the crisis management system. Through advanced technology platforms, these data points can be expanded to include more prescriptive metrics relevant to individual populations.

Get the eBook: Essential Role of Technology for Today's 988 Crisis Centers

Crisis call center services performance metrics

  • Call volume: 

    How many calls are being received each day?
  • Average speed of answer: 

    How long does it take for a call to be picked up?
  • Average delay: 

    How long do people have to wait for a crisis response?
  • Call abandonment rate: 

    How many people hang up before their call is answered?
  • Percentage of calls resolved by phone: 

    How many people are able to receive a resolution without further intervention?
  • Number of mobile teams dispatched: 

    How many crisis mobile services are activated?

Crisis mobile services performance metrics

  • Number served per eight-hour shift: 

    How many people received care during each shift period?
  • Average response time: 

    How long does it take the team to act on a behavioral health crisis once they receive a call or request?
  • Percentage of calls responded to within one hour/two hours: 

    These are target time frames that can be useful to benchmark average response time against.
  • Longest response time: 

    When calls take longer than average to be answered, they are good data points to investigate and find out what the challenges were.
  • Percentage of mobile crisis responses resolved in the community: 

    How many community members received care resolution from the mobile services team?

Crisis receiving and stabilization services performance metrics

  • Percentage of referrals accepted: 

    Out of all of the referrals, how many people were taken in?
  • Percentage of referrals from law enforcement: 

    Out of all the referrals, how many came from law enforcement? This falls under hospital and jail diversion efforts.
  • Average length of stay: 

    How long do people tend to stay?
  • Percentage not referred to emergency department for medical care:

    How many clients are seen as "non-emergency" cases?
  • Percentage completing an outpatient follow-up visit after discharge:

    Who attends their scheduled outpatient appointments?
  • Guest service satisfaction: 

    How happy are people with the care they received?

While any data point on its own may not provide a ton of information, together they begin to tell a story about the bigger picture of each area's client base, urgent mental health challenges, effectiveness of crisis response, and more.

How Core's Cx360 can help teams access the right data

There are many performance metrics to keep track of, and the right technology platform will allow you to view, organize, and interpret the data with ease. While some states or crisis call centers currently track metrics through regularly updated dashboards, systems can always be improved to match the specific needs of the teams using them.

Core's Cx360 is designed specifically for crisis response. The platform eliminates the need for manual call processing and greatly reduces the possibility of miscommunications or mistranslations of critical insights.

With Cx360, you get customizable dashboards with intuitive filters that provide holistic views of client populations. Dynamic lists allow you to zero in on an individual client's support needs or sort groups by a variety of criteria like diagnosis, zip code, or program; you can also save those lists for easy future use and to generate reports.

Want to take full control of your data and improve results within your crisis center—and the community at large? Discover how Cx360 can help.

Essential Role of Technology for Today's 988 Crisis Centers

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