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In this Sept. 2020 photo, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Christian Hawks with CAHOOTS, a mental health crisis intervention program, prepares for an afternoon shift in Eugene, Oregon. When police respond to a person gripped by a mental health or drug crisis, the encounter can have tragic results. Now a government health program will help communities set up an alternative: mobile teams of practitioners trained in de-escalating such potentially volatile situations. (William Holderfield via AP)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 13 July 2021

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today cheered the announcement that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would soon begin to accept applications from states for planning grants to develop community-based mobile crisis intervention services for Americans with Medicaid. Wyden fought to include the grants, as well as an enhanced federal Medicaid funding for these services, in the American Rescue Plan earlier this year.

“It’s past time to change the way this country helps those in crisis on the streets,” Wyden said. 

“These grants are a critical first step to helping communities across America re-imagine public safety by decriminalizing mental illness, connecting people with services they need and reducing the chances of violent encounters with law enforcement. I look forward to supporting any community that seeks to pursue this approach and will continue working to make crisis intervention services a pillar of public safety in America.” 

Mobile crisis intervention services are designed to help those struggling with mental illness receive needed care instead of involving law enforcement. Modeled on the Eugene, Ore., based CAHOOTS program operated by the White Bird Clinic, these services allow a multi-disciplinary team to respond to mental health crises in order to stabilize and de-escalate the situation and help connect individuals to the health care and social services they need.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provided $15 million in planning grants for state Medicaid agencies to begin setting up these services around the country. These planning dollars will help states take advantage of enhanced Medicaid funding that will be available for these services beginning next year. Under the ARP, states that opt-in will be able to receive a higher federal Medicaid match, known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), of 85 percent for qualifying mobile crisis services. CBO estimated that this provision will give states $1 billion in additional federal Medicaid dollars for mobile crisis services in the coming years.

More information on the applications can be found here.

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