On November 10th, 2022, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a new report, National Guidelines for Child and Youth Behavioral Health Crisis Care, describing the urgent need to improve crisis response services for children, youth, and families and provides guidance for communities to address the existing gaps in care for youth.

The report recognizes that the 988 crisis line implementation is an opportunity to improve the way that crisis services are delivered around the country, including ensuring that services for children and youth are age-appropriate, family-centered, and responsive to their unique needs and circumstances.

In the new guidelines, SAMHSA strongly encourages youth crisis systems to:

  • Keep youth in their home and avoid out-of-home placements, as much as possible.
  • Provide developmentally appropriate services and supports that treat youth as youth, rather than expecting them to have the same needs as adults.
  • Integrate family and youth peer support providers and people with lived experience in planning, implementing, and evaluating services.
  • Meet the needs of all families by providing culturally and linguistically appropriate, equity-driven services

SAMHSA also highlights the diversity of the children and families served by the 988 line, including “infants and young children; transition-age youth; racial and ethnic minority youth, including youth in Tribal communities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and other sexual and gender minority (LGBTQI+) youth; youth who are immigrants or refugees; youth experiencing homelessness; and youth with intellectual or developmental disabilities, among other important service populations.”

Although this report has been in the works for a several months, the release comes after groups have called on SAMHSA to address the need for crisis response services that are tailored specifically for youth and children.