The State of Maine’s Emergency Services Communication Bureau (ESCB) is working to implement 911/988 service integration to aid residents experiencing mental health crises. The new dialing code will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line.
Public safety organizations nationwide have been working to determine how they can support 988 service and other alternative responses for citizens in crisis, including referrals to mental health professionals and other organizations fighting homelessness, substance abuse and other social challenges.
Maine enacted a law in 2021 that required the ESCB to submit a report to the legislature regarding potential protocols, procedures and future legislation to ensure the delivery of crisis response services via Maine's 911 and 988 systems. The objective is to connect citizens to the appropriate support when they are experiencing mental health, substance abuse and behavioral health issues. To aid this initiative, Mission Critical Partners (MCP) will help the state develop policies and procedures to address screening calls for crisis response services.
MCP collaborated with the ESCB to deliver the report, which resulted in the state legislature passing H.P. 1498 - L.D. 2016. The law calls for formation of the stakeholder working group recommended in the report and the development of policies and procedures to address the screening and transferring of calls for crisis-response services. MCP helped facilitate seven focus group discussions and interview subject-matter experts; survey emergency communications and response personnel across the state; and conduct and analyze research on the current state of crisis response in Maine.
Critical recommendations for future action contained in the report include the following:
- Integrate an emergency mental health dispatch (EMHD) protocol into the emergency medical dispatch (EMD) protocol used by ECCs — also known as public safety answering points (PSAPs) — and dispatch-only centers in the state.
- Train all telecommunicators in Maine's ECCs and the dispatch-only centers on using the EMHD protocols and other crisis response skills via a standardized training regimen.
- Establish a statewide EMHD protocol coordinator and a multidisciplinary committee that consists of a cross-section of stakeholders to ensure effective communication and implementation of the EMHD protocols and to drive improvements as emergency mental health service delivery matures in the state.
"Providing an appropriate emergency response to those experiencing mental health, substance abuse and behavioral health issues is vitally important, and a response often found outside the 911 system," said Darrin Reilly, MCP's president and chief executive officer. "We're grateful for the opportunity to continue to support the state of Maine in this initiative."