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Building a Comprehensive and Coordinated Crisis System

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2021

This brief presents the continuum of responses that are central to a community’s comprehensive crisis system that prioritizes addressing behavioral health needs with pathways to treatment and services.


The critical features of such a crisis system are 1) person-centered and strengths-based, 2) community response and peer support, 3) law enforcement collaboration, and 4) trauma-informed care and recovery. The recommended components of such a system are a high-tech 24/7 crisis call center, 24/7 mobile crisis team responses, and short-term crisis stabilization services. The 24/7 crisis call center, which is a dedicated crisis line, should connect people with services, provide telehealth support, and coordinate the crisis response network. The 24/7 mobile crisis team should provide emergency services to anyone anywhere in the community. It may include community responders or co-responses with law enforcement. The short-term crisis stabilization services should provide intensive treatment and supports in collaboration with emergency departments for people who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis. This may include crisis stabilization units (CSUs), drop-off centers, or home crisis stabilization. This report outlines best practices for building a comprehensive crisis system with these features. These best practices are to conduct a system mapping exercise, collect data on key crisis call metrics and their outcomes, first implement crisis services that address the greatest need, and measure performance and consider sustainability. A listing of additional resources is provided.