By: Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W., Director, SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services

In a previous blog post, I wrote about crisis intervention teams and their effectiveness in improving outcomes for people experiencing a crisis due to a mental or substance use disorder. Crisis intervention teams work with law enforcement officials to recognize a person who is in crisis and safely direct them to treatment appropriate for their condition. This model has been successful in many communities, bringing together police and other first responders with resources such as mobile crisis teams and crisis hotlines. The result is a decrease in the number of mental-health related arrests while increasing public safety. To support communities in creating and evaluating their own crisis intervention teams, SAMHSA has published a new report titled Crisis Intervention Team Methods for using Data to Inform Practice: A Step-by-Step Guide.

With any community-wide program, it is important to make sure that the effort produces the desired results. Crisis Intervention Team Methods for using Data to Inform Practice: A Step-by Step-Guide provides a roadmap to help communities create a system for effective data collection and review. Once the data is collected, communities can understand the effectiveness of their crisis intervention program and discover any gaps where improvements may be needed.

The guide details seven steps that include the foundational activities for identifying needed data and strategies to capture those data. It provides a breakdown of recommended data points, measurement and metrics for crisis intervention teams programs to collect. In addition, the guide includes sample reporting forms and data entry spreadsheets provided by five crisis intervention programs.

Using the data collection and program measurement methods described in this guide, communities can develop tools to share information among the crisis intervention team partners and report results to community leaders. The data generated can also be used to measure cost savings realized by reducing the rate of arrest or unnecessary emergency room visits. Policy makers can use the data to focus on efforts that are most relevant to their communities and, most importantly, increase referrals and linkage to services at the time of an encounter.

To learn more about first responders’ role during a mental health crisis, visit the following resources: