The broad goal of this project is to provide a resource to help city leaders implement effective strategies for emergency response and crisis stabilization for individuals experiencing mental illness, substance use disorder and/or homelessness. City leaders may adapt the strategies to address their city’s specific challenges in these areas.

Brief No. 1:  Advancing Coordinated Solutions through Local Leadership

Mental illness, substance use disorder, and homelessness pose significant, interconnected challenges for cities as they affect millions of people nationally. City leaders play a key role in ensuring individuals receive the appropriate treatment and services at the right time.

Traditional approaches to addressing these challenges have proven less than effective. Many individuals with mental illness, substance use disorder, and/or homelessness lack access to important health and social services. Responses often have funneled vulnerable populations into emergency departments, jails, and prisons, imposing both human and financial costs. Innovative efforts like emergency response teams and crisis stabilization centers have the potential to serve as doorways into more appropriate services and treatments.

Cities across the country are implementing innovative approaches to improve outcomes. Newer approaches in emergency response and crisis stabilization prioritize programming that increases the capacity of first responders to safely deescalate emergency situations involving individuals with mental illness, substance use disorder, and/or experiencing homelessness. These approaches maximize diversion to treatment and services instead of arrest or unwarranted emergency department visits.


Brief No. 2:  Working Across Systems for Better Results

Cross-system approaches can produce better outcomes for vulnerable populations during emergency and crisis stabilization responses. Instead of organizations working in silos, cross-system collaboration can enable stakeholders in a community to leverage their skills, expertise, and resources to more effectively assist vulnerable populations.

First responders play a unique role in emergency response and crisis stabilization initiatives by serving as an entry point to broader systems of care. By diverting vulnerable individuals to vital services and supports, first responders can help individuals receive the care and services they need while avoiding incarceration.

Several cities across the country attribute the success of their emergency response and crisis stabilization efforts, in part, to cross-system collaboration. These cities serve as exemplars to other cities as they work towards developing more effective emergency crisis and stabilization responses to help support individuals with mental illness, substance use disorder and/or experiencing homelessness.


Brief No. 3: Emergency Response and Crisis Stabilization

Cities are implementing innovative, cross-systems approaches to emergency response and/or crisis stabilization for those experiencing substance use disorder (SUD), homelessness and/ or mental illness. However, they face a number of challenges including data collection and analysis; data integration and sharing; facility and workforce development; flexible, sustainable funding; and cultural attitudes, among others.

Opportunities for cities to collaborate with and utilize resources from federal, state and county governments can support and spread the innovative, cross-systems approaches being developed at the municipal level.