PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The first Medicaid mobile crisis intervention services program in the United States will be launched in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced Monday. 

Brown and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined officials from the Biden-Arrison Administration to make the announcement. The new Medicaid option was created through the American Rescue Plan and aims to strengthen behavioral health care response. 

It will allow Oregon to provide community-based stabilization services to people experiencing mental health and substance use crises by connecting them to a behavioral health specialist 24 hours per day, every day of the year. 

Oregon was the first state to seek and be granted approval for the new Medicaid option. The American Rescue Plan provided $15 million in planning grants to help 20 state Medicaid agencies develop these programs. HHS encourages more states to follow Oregon’s lead. 

“Addressing our nation’s mental health crisis is a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration, and thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, Oregon can better provide its residents with the support and stabilization services they need during times of crisis,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. 

The new program will support community-based mobile crisis intervention services for people with Medicaid, including those who have a mental health or substance use condition. 

The mobile crisis intervention services will screen and assess people who are in crisis. It will help de-escalate crises and will help refer people to health and social services, including services that provide life skills training and education about the effects of medication. 

Through the program, the Oregon Health Authority will work with community partners to respond to and treat people experiencing mental health crises. 

“Oregon’s model for community-based mobile crisis intervention teams is centered on the value that a behavioral health crisis should be met with a behavioral health response,” Brown said. “This investment will be a game changer for our state, enabling us to provide mental health services that will reach Oregonians in communities across the state and that are culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate.” 

HHS said too often, law enforcement must serve as mental health counselors or social workers, which takes away from their policing work. The Biden-Harris administration hopes that by mobilizing mental health and substance use professionals to respond to people experiencing mental health or substance use crises, it will ease the burden on law enforcement. 

The community-based mobile crisis intervention services will use focused behavioral and rehabilitative interventions to help diffuse and mitigate a crisis. 

Brown said community-based mobile crisis intervention services teams will be dispatched if requested by 988 call centers. That’s the number for the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The mobile crisis intervention teams will not be restricted to select locations or regions. 

The new Medicaid option became available to states in March 2022. It’s one way HHS is working to deliver on President Biden’s strategy to address the nation’s mental health crisis. 

Oregon has been a pioneer in providing trained professional responses to people experiencing mental health crises. Eugene’s CAHOOTS team has been a model for similar programs and the Portland Street Response team started in 2021.