STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Mission Critical Partners will continue to support the state of Maine’s Emergency Services Communication Bureau (ESCB) as it implements 911/988 service integration. MCP specifically will help the state develop policies and procedures to address screening calls for crisis-response services. The ESCB is a division of the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC).
This initiative is the latest in Maine's effort to prepare for the launch of 988 service, the newly designated three-digit dialing code, which took effect nationwide on July 16. 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 others dealing with 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.
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's role in the project involved the following.
- Facilitating seven focus group discussions and interviewing subject-matter experts.
- Creating and distributing a customized survey to representatives of the state's emergency communication centers (ECCs) and dispatch-only centers as well as the law enforcement, fire/rescue, and emergency medical agencies in the state.
- Conducting research that included, but was not limited to, review of related articles, policies, and procedures, as well as analysis of established and pilot programs in other states.
- Analyzing the data, developing an assessment of the current state of crisis-response services delivery in Maine, and drafting a comprehensive report.
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 telecommunications personnel 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.
MCP also supported Maine's participation in a 988/911 policy academy hosted in June by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
"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."