Every hour of every day in Maricopa County, tireless firefighters, law enforcement officers and mental health professionals answer the call for help from people of all ages who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
Terros Health, Solari Crisis Response Network and a team of providers meet these individuals where they are at — whether at their home, school or in the community.
The work of our front line heroes has never been more important. It is why Gov. Doug Ducey and mayors of cities and towns throughout the Valley proclaimed July 11-17 Mobile Crisis Response Awareness Week.
Most people don’t know that Arizona is the gold standard in crisis care. Nationally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration created a roadmap for the ideal crisis system using our state as a model, highlighting the hotline response staff, mobile crisis teams and sub-acute facilities who work together to establish a strong safety net and top-notch response system for those in need of help.
Even so, Terros Health, the mobile crisis provider in Maricopa County, is taking mobile crisis care to an even higher level, fortifying partnerships with law enforcement, first responders and municipalities; developing a cutting-edge clinical model that guides response in the field; and creating a state-of-the-art disaster response program.
A culture of healing
We believe such a system is built from the inside out with a culture of healing designed to empower behavioral health specialists to take ownership of the care they deliver using their unique gifts. That includes making sound judgments, working collaboratively with municipal, social service and other partners, and bringing their special brand of care to individuals at a time when they need it most.
Arming first responders and our frontline partners with the best skills to do the job is also critical. Terros Health invests extensively in training to help stabilize patients, keep them in the community, and prevent the crisis from happening again. Crisis response providers statewide also are certified as psychological first-aid responders.
The idea is for responders to use evidence-based clinical practices while engaging in supportive dialogue to help people with stress management solutions and resiliency-building solutions, gather resources for ongoing care and develop a personal safety plan. Ultimately, we aim to address the root cause of a crisis with preventive services, whole-person care and overall health and healing.
Traumatic stress control
COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone in our community, including our first responders. To reduce stress among these individuals and frontline hospital staff during the height of the pandemic, our team borrowed from the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Operational Stress Control model to create a program called Traumatic Event Stress Control.
As the national conversation has moved toward investing in municipalities and alternative policing models, we also have joined municipalities, including the City of Phoenix team, which enlisted our help in the Bloomberg Philanthropies “What Works Cities” Alternative Response Model Leadership Initiative to enhance the city’s response to people with behavioral health challenges.
These efforts are working. First responders are answering calls in fewer than 30 minutes, and Maricopa County’s community stabilization rate — the benchmark for keeping individuals in crisis out of the hospital — now stands at 80%, compared to the national standard of 70%. We continue to work closely with municipal and community partners at the scene and on a host of project groups, ranging from substance use delivery to crisis intervention and suicide and youth.
Yet, there is more we can do. This includes focusing not only on the situation at hand, but addressing the social determinants of health, too. After all, a crisis isn’t just about helping those in need, but improving the entire system around them.
David Obergfell is a veteran and an experienced clinical social worker who serves as senior director of Crisis Services at Terros Health. Learn more at terroshealth.org.