Colorado Expands Access to Mobile Behavioral Health Services

Wednesday, August 30, 2023


Mobile Crisis Response and Behavioral Health Secure Transportation aim to help individuals get help and avoid unnecessary hospitalization or incarceration 

DENVER - Coloradans experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis will now have expanded access to highly-trained crisis response teams in their communities, and can receive a safe ride to receive behavioral health treatment if needed.  Today the Polis Administration in partnership with the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) and the Department of Health Care Policy & Financing (HCPF) are expanding existing Mobile Crisis Response (MCR) and covering a new service, Behavioral Health Secure Transportation (BHST). 

“This is an important resource for Coloradans to get the high-quality support they need when they need it most, and part of our ongoing work to make sure that every person has the tools and resources they need to thrive,” said Gov. Polis. 

"We are thrilled to expand access to behavioral health services for all Coloradans. We purposefully designed and will continue to improve these programs to bring forth system changes that will allow the people of Colorado to access high-quality, timely, community-based interventions that make sense for each diverse community across the state," said Michelle Barnes, interim commissioner of BHA.

Mobile Crisis Response (MCR) dispatches teams of behavioral health crisis professionals to intervene, de-escalate, and stabilize people experiencing a behavioral health crisis, as well as follow up in the days after to ensure the individual is connected to ongoing care. MCR is designed to help individuals avoid hospitalization or arrest, which have often been overused as a solution to a behavioral crisis. Updates to MCR include adding peer support professionals and EMTs to response teams, expanding training for better service delivery, expanded federal funding, and enforcing response times. 

Behavioral Health Secure Transportation (BHST) service allows ambulances and specially licensed vehicles to take people in crisis to a behavioral health provider, or transport them safely between treatment locations. This helps avoid unnecessary hospitalization, reduces the need for law enforcement escorts for people seeking care, and reduces stigma. By reducing the stigma associated with receiving behavioral health services, especially those that require transport to a facility for advanced care, BHST is improving equitable access across the state.

We are called to support behavioral health system reform in Colorado, and our goal is to get all Coloradans the care they need in the community, and reduce unnecessary hospital visits and criminal justice encounters. This is one more step in the right direction to improve, enhance and expand services for people in crisis,” said Kim Bimestefer, executive director of Healthcare, Policy and Financing.

People in Colorado experiencing a behavioral health crisis, or a friend or family member, can reach MCR services by calling or texting the Colorado Crisis Line, 988 or 911. A pair of crisis professionals, including clinicians, EMTs, or peer support professionals, will respond and work with the client to resolve their crisis and connect them to ongoing health care and community resources. MCR teams can travel to most locations in a community, including a person’s home, a public space, or a school. 

The Mobile Crisis Response approach and the Behavioral Health Secure Transportation services reflect national best practices and play a vital role in transforming behavioral health access in Colorado. Together, they support a system that is equitable and easy to access while meeting the needs of all people in Colorado - regardless of their location, age, insurance, prior use or residency. All people in Colorado can access these services 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 days a year either in-person or via telehealth. 

The improvements to Mobile Crisis Response services are funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.