RESOURCES: New SAMHSA Publication, and Info re: 988 Implementation

December 9, 2020

SAMHSA publishes guidelines, toolkit to strengthen crisis care in America’s communities

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has published “Crisis Services: Meeting Needs, Saving Lives,” a compendium detailing crisis intervention services, best practices and related components of crisis services, for use by a wide array of community leaders and health care providers to work toward better outcomes for Americans in crisis.

The book is composed of SAMHSA’s “National Guidelines for Behavioral Health Crisis Care: Best Practice Toolkit” and related papers on crisis services. The toolkit reflects relevant clinical and health services research, review of top national program practices and replicable approaches that support best practice implementation. The related papers address key issues relevant to crisis services, homelessness, technology advances, substance use, legal issues impacting crisis services, financing crisis care, diverse populations, children and adolescents, rural and frontier areas, and the role of law enforcement.

“Crisis services and their successful implementation are a critical component of a comprehensive approach to addressing mental health care,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Elinore McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D., who leads SAMHSA. “We are pleased to be able to provide states and communities with this tool to assist in the development of successful crisis systems across the country.”

In collaboration with SAMHSA and the National Association of Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), many industry leaders and health care providers authored and otherwise contributed to the content in both sections of the book. “In preparing this information, we could think of no one better to provide input than people who have worked successfully with crisis systems of care. Their expertise – as well as the experiences of individuals and families who have relied on these supports – inform this book,” said Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz. “This important compendium will provide leaders in mental health and substance use services valuable information to develop and improve crisis services across the country,” said Brian Hepburn, M.D., the CEO of NASMHPD.

This book is consistent with SAMHSA’s mission to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. Likewise, in October, SAMHSA released a mobile app, My Mental Health Crisis Planwhich allows individuals who have serious mental illness (SMI) to create a plan to guide their treatment during a mental health crisis. The app was developed through SMI Adviser, a project funded by SAMHSA and administered by the American Psychiatric Association.


Although the Planning Grants (discussed below) are directed to state public health agencies, we wanted to share information regarding recently passed federal legislation initiating the national 988 system that is being developed around the country and here in New York under the direction of Vibrant Emotional Health, based in New York City.

Please see the grant opportunity below but please note the following eligibility requirements:

  • State mental health and public health agencies in all 50 U.S. States and the District of Columbia.
  • Public health departments in U.S. Territories who have a crisis center with a pending approval
    • Note: non-profit organizations (ex: suicide prevention coalitions) and Lifeline member call centers may, at the discretion of the state/territory agency be subcontracted to perform some aspects of the grant work scope, but they may not be the lead applicants of the grant.

988 Planning Grants Now Open

Vibrant Emotional Health, through a special funding opportunity, seeks to collaborate with state public health and mental health agencies to help them plan for the full implementation of 988. Through this grant opportunity, U.S. states, territories and Lifeline centers receiving grant funds will:  

  • Develop clear roadmaps for how they will address key coordination, capacity, funding and communication strategies that are foundational to the launching of 988 which will occur on or before July 16, 2022.
  • Plan for the long-term improvement of in-state answer rates for 988 calls.

Applications are now open, and are due no later than 5:00 P.M. EST, Friday, January 8, 2021.Directions and application requirements are listed within the Request for Applications (RFA).

You can find more information aboutthe grant, the RFA, and FAQs at this link.

For questions about the planning grants, please write to Matt Taylor, Director of Network Development, at