Examining Crisis Stabilization Units

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Examining Crisis Stabilization Units and Mobile and Technology-Enhanced Aftercare

Crisis Stabilization Units are community-based, short-term residential treatment units that provide immediate care to individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis. The goal of the crisis stabilization units is to quickly stabilize the individual – often within 72 hours – and refer that individual to community resources when they are available. Although crisis stabilization units are most widely used as an alternative to emergency rooms, communities across the nation – and particularly urban communities – are increasingly examining crisis stabilization units as an alternative to incarceration for individuals in crisis who come into contact with law enforcement.

In Florida, there are already 40 crisis stabilization units in communities across the state. However, retaining individuals in treatment after they are released from a crisis stabilization units may be a major barrier to their effectiveness. Community-based treatment programs do not exist in all communities and when they do an individual’s access to treatment can be compromised by logistical factors like lack of transportation, lack of stable housing, and long waitlists.

Our study seeks to identify whether mobile and technology-assisted aftercare supports can help to overcome the barriers to community treatment receipt and engagement and whether it enhances the impact of crisis stabilization units. We will also examine outcomes among individuals in crisis who law enforcement officers took to jail rather than a crisis stabilization unit and who law enforcement officers did not detain at all.

Jails have been referred to as the “new asylums” as individuals with mental health or substance use disorders are more likely to reside in jails and prisons than in psychiatric hospitals or residential substance abuse treatment programs. Over 60% of incarcerated individuals meet the criteria for a substance use disorder and almost 21% of incarcerated individuals have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness. However, symptoms of these disorders worsen for most individuals during incarceration and, on average, fewer than 10% of individuals who need treatment receive it during their incarceration.

This project aims to establish an evidence base for effective strategies for diverting individuals in crisis away from incarceration and instead connect them to evidence-driven supports in their communities.

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