The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced a $1.35 million investment to begin piloting trauma-informed mobile crisis and crisis co-responder services. These services will deploy teams who are trained and experienced to respond to people experiencing a behavioral health emergency, including mental health professionals and peer support specialists who can de-escalate crisis situations and provide appropriate support. This investment is part of the department’s ongoing effort to transform the behavioral health crisis response system to ensure North Carolinians have someone to call, someone to respond and somewhere to go for care. These pilots focus on the second piece of that crisis response system: someone to respond.

“We’re building the behavioral health care system in North Carolina from the ground up,” said NC Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “By intervening earlier and with better care options, we can break the cycle that funnels people in crisis towards emergency departments and incarceration. This starts with having the right responders to de-escalate situations and connect people with the support they truly need, paving the way for a healthier future for both them and our communities.”

In communities lacking robust behavioral health services, law enforcement becomes the default response for those experiencing mental health emergencies, contributing to the continued cycle of overrepresentation of people with complex behavioral health needs and substance use disorder among the justice-involved population. In North Carolina, serious mental illness affects 15% of men and 31% of women in jails, and 85% of the prison population has a substance use disorder or was incarcerated for a crime related to substance use.

Read NCDHHS’s full press release on this important initiative here.