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Across Massachusetts, many innovative practices, programs, and interventions to addressing behavioral health needs, both at a societal and an individual level, are in the process of gathering important, promising evidence of effectiveness. This page highlights innovations currently in development, pilot phase, or newly implemented in the Commonwealth.

Behavioral Health Urgent Care for Children

In early 2015, the Children's Mental Health Campaign (CMHC) launched a multi-year project to gather data to define clearly the scope of issues that lead to long Emergency Department stays for children and adolescents with behavioral health needs and to use that data to inform solutions to the problem. As part of that project, MAMH led a multi-year study to explore the care elements necessary to more effectively respond to the urgent behavioral health needs of children and adolescents, including those with co-occurring autism spectrum disorders and intellectual/developmental disabilities.

This project proposes a comprehensive system of behavioral health urgent care in Massachusetts to provide children and adolescents with treatment outside of Emergency Departments, where children may wait hours or days for care. By intervening when a need may be "urgent" instead of an emergency, this model seeks to prevent emerging crises from escalating to emergencies, connecting children and adolescents to the care that they require earlier.

Jail Diversion Restoration Center

All too often, someone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis is arrested or brought to an Emergency Department, rather than offered treatment or services that more appropriately address their needs. Some communities around the country have established restoration centers that provide urgent psychiatric care and/or crisis stabilization services and other related social and health services in less restrictive settings than hospitals or jails.

In Massachusetts, the legislature has supported a commission to explore the feasibility of developing a restoration center in Middlesex County. The commission has submitted findings from its design planning process and expects to implement a pilot restoration center in the coming years.

Peer Respite

Peer respite is a voluntary, short-term, overnight program that provides community-based, non-clinical crisis support to help people find new understanding and ways to move forward. It operates 24 hours per day in a homelike environment. Support is provided by individuals who share the lived experience of having psychiatric histories or having experienced trauma, emotional distress, or extreme states.

Afiya is the first and only peer-run respite in Massachusetts and one of only a few dozen in the country. Afiya, located in Northampton, strives to provide a safe space in which each person can find the balance and support needed to turn what is so often referred to as a ‘crisis’ into a learning and growth opportunity. It is available to adults who are experiencing distress and feels they would benefit from being in a short-term, 24-hour peer-supported environment with others who have ‘been there.’

Telehealth

Telehealth services for mental and behavioral health have been around for many years, in the form of remote therapy, psychiatric appointments, and mobile applications promoting positive mental health. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the greatest barriers to widespread adoption of telemental health services was health insurance reimbursement for services. Telehealth has the potential to provide services and care to individuals previously unable to access mental health clinicians due to a variety of barriers.