An excellent behavioral health crisis system is an essential community service, just like police, fire and EMS. Every community should expect a highly effective behavioral health crisis response system to meet the needs of its population, just as it expects for other essential community services.

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

no system will ever likely reach the ideal, the aspirational goal is...

“Every person receives the right service in the right place, every time.”


For communities across the US to transition from minimal behavioral health crisis services toward an ideal system, there must be a blueprint that contains all aspects of an ideal crisis system along with measurable performance criteria that communities can use for ongoing assessment of their progress through a continuous quality improvement process. The blueprint can provide a framework for community leaders (e.g., county executives, behavioral health system administrators, health system leaders, judges), funders (e.g., state agencies, Medicaid, commercial insurers, managed care organizations, accountable care organizations, counties, cities, community foundations) and other stakeholders (e.g., behavioral health providers, other human service providers, emergency responders, law enforcement, people and families receiving services) to come together to develop a shared vision of an excellent crisis system for their community, a set of shared values and action steps for making progress.

This report describes the criteria of an ideal behavioral health crisis system as a blueprint for any community to follow to establish community crisis services for individuals and families with mental health and substance use needs that are on par with other essential community services that respond to other types of crises.

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