Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System

Mar 27, 2021
cover of Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System

A mental health crisis system is more than a single program. It is an organized set of structures, processes and services in place to meet all types of urgent and emerging mental health crisis needs in a defined population or community, effectively and efficiently.

A new report from the Committee on Psychiatry and the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, released by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, outlines the steps we must take now – before the launch of 9-8-8 – to ensure people in crisis receive the high-quality behavioral health services they need. The report, “Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System,” provides a detailed vision for communities creating mental health crisis systems to guide this important work. This groundbreaking new report, distributed by the National Council, illustrates how vital it is to design and implement a mental health crisis system and demonstrates how a community’s response must be fully integrated with the treatment system.

The report provides detailed guidance and outlined measurable criteria for design and implementation to help communities – attempting to address every point in the continuum of crisis services. Because it is the first report of its kind, this blueprint will serve a vital role for any community planning its crisis system. With 988 fast approaching, it’s time to begin the work to plan, design and implement that system of care so resources are in place when people call for help.

This guidance on Psychiatric Leadership in Crisis Systems: The Role of the Crisis Services Medical Director was developed by the Crisis Services Subcommittee of the Medical Director Institute of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. This brief guidance expands on the recommendations of the recently released report, Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System and provides additional guidance for how crisis system medical directors can be most effective in their roles.

Additional Resources


Crisis Systems Transformation: Now is the Time

This webinar co-presented by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) focused on opportunities for transforming our nation’s crisis system. View the webinar recording.

Topics covered included:

  • Identifying individual roles in improving crisis care at the clinical level.
  • Recognizing statewide trends in improving crisis services to identify gaps in their system and how to make necessary improvements.
  • Advocating for community and state-wide changes to implement a 988 number that will better meet the needs of patients in crisis.
  • Educating patients about changes to the crisis system to encourage them to use crisis services and the 988 number instead of 911 when 988 is available.

Presenters included:

  • Stephanie Le Melle, M.D., Director of Public Psychiatry Education, Columbia University
  • Robert Gebbia, CEO, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Debra Pinals, M.D., Medical Director of Behavioral Health and Forensic Programs, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
  • Keris Myrick, MBA, MS, Co-director, Mental Health Strategic Impact Initiative (S2i)
Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System

This joint webinar with the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing examined how we can prevent more deaths and facilitate better crisis outcomes by re-imagining the structure of our crisis response systems. Watch the webinar recording.

This webinar covered:

  • Why re-imagine the crisis response system?
  • The importance of suicide prevention.
  • Involuntary versus voluntary institutionalization.

Presenters included:

  • Joe Parks, M.D., Medical Director, National Council for Mental Wellbeing
  • Kenneth Minkoff, M.D., Vice President and COO, ZiaPartners, Inc.
National Council Conversations – Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System

Designed with health care professionals in mind, these 15-minute virtual learning events – led by National Council president and CEO, Chuck Ingoglia – deliver shared insights and experiences from our National Council members and staff as we spotlight our unique programs, services and solutions. In this episode, Margie Balfour, M.D., Ph.D.; and Joe Parks, M.D., Medical Director, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, join Chuck as they discuss the Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System paper.

Re: Envisioning Crisis Response in America

In this special presentation for Mobilize Recovery National Council president and CEO, Chuck Ingoglia, and Kenneth Minkoff, M.D., vice president and COO, ZiaPartners, Inc., explore what it means to transition our crisis response nationally and how people can advocate for change at the local level.


Behavioral Healthcare Executive

988 Success Hinges on Support of Mental Health Crisis Programs

The success of 988 will depend on the mental health crisis system behind the scenes that we design and implement to help those who call for help.


Answering the call requires more than picking up the phone

The new 988 will save lives, but only if communities design an effective mental health crisis system to support it.

988 & Crisis Response


In July 2022, 988 – the new national 3-digit crisis hotline – will go live. 988 will provide easy access to mental health and substance use crisis support for all Americans. It offers states an opportunity – and an imperative – to bolster high-quality community crisis response systems that are expected to see a surge in demand when 988 is launched. Review the resources below to see how 988 will impact our crisis system infrastructure and the urgent need to bolster our systems to meet the upcoming demand.

CCBHCs: A Cornerstone of 988 Implementation

Through their standardized crisis response capabilities, their broad range of required crisis care, and their role in serving all individuals regardless of location or ability to pay, CCBHCs are uniquely positioned to serve as a cornerstone in our nation’s new crisis response system, decreasing the burden on 911 operators, law enforcement officials, and emergency departments.

Fulfilling the Promise of 988

As the 988 go-live date of July 2022 quickly approaches, learn about the full crisis care continuum, and the work that remains to fulfill the promise of 988 so that everyone, everywhere can have access to high-quality crisis services, when and where they need it them.

CCBHC Model Improving Outcomes and Expanding Access

Amidst widespread staffing shortages and other workforce challenges across the mental health and substance use treatment system, new data released by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing found the CCBHC model enables clinics to hire more staff to respond to surging demand for services, in addition to expanding access to treatment and reducing emergency department visits.

CCBHCs and Integrated Care – A Model All Communities Can Follow

Integrated treatment – the comprehensive care CCBHCs offer routinely – should be the norm, and CCBHCs provide a model to make integrated care a reality for everyone.

An estimated 8.9 million adults in the U.S. have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. CCBHCs are closing the treatment gap that leaves so many without proper care. In addition to dramatically increasing access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, CCBHCs have reduced wait times, expanded states’ capacity to address the overdose crisis and established innovative partnerships with law enforcement, schools and hospitals to improve care, reduce recidivism and prevent hospital readmissions.

National Council for Mental Wellbeing Awarded Technical Assistance Center Grant by SAMHSA to Support CCBHCs

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently awarded the National Council for Mental Wellbeing a five-year grant to operate a national center for technical assistance for CCBHC grantees. The Technical Assistance Center will work with more than 400 CCBHCs to strengthen their operations and the delivery of care for any person who comes through their doors.