Crisis Stabilization Centers — A New Normal For Behavioral Health

Crisis Stabilization Centers are community-based alternatives to psychiatric hospitalization that have been proven effective at diverting individuals from a higher level of care and providing treatment for people in a behavioral health crisis.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced the availability of more than $100 million in funding to support 12 Intensive Crisis Stabilization Centers across the state. These facilities are akin to urgent care centers that offer 24/7 walk-in access to behavioral health services, including medication management, therapy and addiction treatment.

A Crisis Stabilization Center is a community-based facility providing short-term care for people with acute mental health or substance use disorder needs. The goal is to stabilize an individual within 72 hours and then connect them with services in the community. In communities with no Crisis Stabilization Center, law enforcement officers often have limited options when responding to someone in a crisis. They can either take that person to jail or the emergency room.

Many jurisdictions are taking steps to expand their crisis response system. One way they do this is by creating Crisis Stabilization Units (CSUs). CSUs provide emergency assessment and short-term treatment for individuals in a psychiatric crisis. They also help divert people from entering a higher level of care.

Intensive crisis stabilization units provide short-term psychiatric care that offers rapid stabilization and reduction in symptoms of behavioral health crises. These services divert individuals away from emergency room treatment and unnecessary psychiatric hospitalization.

During this time, an interdisciplinary team of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, nurses and social workers, provides assessment, treatment and referral. They also connect patients with peer recovery volunteers to community services.

Across the country, communities recognize the importance of new crisis service delivery models to address individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis. For example, in Oregon, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has developed a crisis center that now offers 24/7 services.

In New York State, officials are developing “Supportive Crisis Stabilization Centers” that will offer people with behavioral health or substance use issues an essential alternative to emergency department visits, hospital stays or incarceration. They will provide walk-in care, peer and recovery-oriented support services, and referral and follow-up to ensure people continue to receive the help they need.

Many individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis enter the emergency room without seeking care, which can lead to unnecessary hospitalization or jail. These psychiatric emergencies often are exacerbated by alcohol and drug use. Across the country, communities are developing new behavioral health models that provide treatment options for different types of patients with varying needs. These models operate on a grassroots level with local partners.

Crisis Stabilization Centers offer in-home support services to people experiencing a behavioral health crisis and cannot wait for an inpatient psychiatric hospital stay. These programs often provide 24-hour monitoring and observation, support from trained staff, and assistance with daily living skills and social activities until the person can be stabilized and connected with ongoing support.

Rifkind, director of community-based youth services at Sheppard Pratt, says the program is an important part of the county’s crisis continuum, which diverts young people from inpatient hospitalization and emergency room visits by providing treatment at home. Some youth enter the program after being discharged from a hospital or residential treatment center, and school counselors refer others.

Depending on the local jurisdiction, a CSU can look different from one place to another. Still, many provide screening and assessment, mental health counseling, and referrals to other services, such as housing. Some also offer 24-hour monitoring and monitoring for mental illness and substance use disorders and in-home psychiatric medication management.



Tim Dupell has devoted his professional life to providing mental health professionals with the benefit of his knowledge, connections, and enthusiasm.

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Tim Dupell

Tim Dupell has devoted his professional life to providing mental health professionals with the benefit of his knowledge, connections, and enthusiasm.