Mental health crises do not wait for an appointment. They arrive unannounced, often when people are least prepared to deal with them.
For many people, the lifeline in those critical moments is the newly implemented 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline — a crucial tool in our collective effort to provide support in times of crisis.
As vital as this service is, it's not an endpoint. It's the beginning of a longer journey, requiring seamless integration between public mental health crisis services and clinicians in health care settings.
Mental health crisis response and medical care organizations must be well coordinated and ready to receive individuals in crisis, just as crisis and medical care organizations do for someone experiencing a stroke or heart attack.
As I highlighted in a recent Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Forum, the task of integrating crisis care with health care requires collaboration among government entities, health care clinicians, the public crisis response system, and community organizations.
At Kaiser Permanente, we understand the need for collaboration and are working hard to improve mental health crisis care and better coordinate care between public-facing systems, such as 988, and our organization.
We are working closely with state officials to coordinate follow-up appointments for members who call 988 or their local crisis line. We are also increasing the number of behavioral health consultants in primary care. Each is a step toward bridging the gap between immediate crisis response and ongoing mental health care, acknowledging that one cannot function without the other.
The successful rollout of 988 highlights how policy can improve integrated crisis care. We have an opportunity to build on the momentum of 988 by crafting policies that enhance our country’s crisis care system. That's why at Kaiser Permanente, we support:
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has opened a new door for mental health support. It's our shared responsibility to ensure that door leads to a caring, connected network that stands ready to help at any moment.
As a country, we can redefine crisis mental health care. We must seize the opportunity to create a system where quality care, compassion, and integration are the norms.