April 17, 2024

County to launch new behavioral health crisis response team

Next week a new county government van will hit the streets, providing on-site behavioral health services.

The van will be operated by a new “Mobile Outreach Support Team,” consisting of “a licensed behavioral health clinician, a certified peer recovery specialist, and an outreach worker” from the Arlington Department of Human Services.

The team will work alongside emergency responders, providing “alternatives to incarceration for those who engage in ‘crime/nuisance behavior'” and reducing hospital and psychiatric emergency room admissions.

After the killing of George Floyd in 2020, the main demand of the “Do the police” movement was to reduce the police budget to fund additional social services. While Arlington has actually increased its police budget, the new outreach team is at least a partial realization of the vision of redirecting some police responses to behavioral health clinicians, as suggested by the county’s Police Practices Work Group.

More, below, from a county press release.

The Mobile Outreach Support Team (MOST) is the latest addition to the County’s expanding network of care for people with mental health and substance use problems.

The MOST program is coordinated by the Department of Human Services (DHS), in partnership with the Arlington County Police Department, the Arlington County Fire Department, and the Emergency Communications Center, which operates the County’s 9-1-1 call center.

MOST launches July 31, 2023, and will operate Monday to Friday, between 1 pm and 9 pm

MOST’s goals include increasing access to mental health and substance use treatment and reducing the role of non-clinical first responders in addressing mental health needs. The program also aims to provide alternatives to people who engage in “crimes/nuisance behaviors,” and reduce admissions to emergency and psychiatric departments.

“MOST is an important expansion of our efforts to ensure that people in crisis can get the right help when and where they need it,” said DHS Director Anita Friedman. “MOST of the staff that will be out in the community are specialists. That includes responding to 9-1-1 calls in need of behavioral health, outreach to the homeless, and working closely with our Police and Fire partners to support them in the field when needed.”


The IS National Guidelines for Crisis Care from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) emphasizes the importance of offering mobile, community-based intervention to individuals in need wherever they are, including at home, at work, or anywhere else in the community where the individual is in crisis.

The MOST team – which includes a licensed behavioral health clinician, a certified peer recovery specialist, and an outreach worker – will provide a range of essential functions including:

  • Triage/screening, including overt screening for suicidality
  • Assessment
  • De-escalation/remediation
  • Peer support
  • Coordination with medical and behavioral health services
  • Crisis planning and follow-up

Arlington’s MOST will also be able to distribute harm reduction tools such as Narcan and fentanyl test strips, connect homeless people to shelters and other services, and transport people from the scene to providers where they can get help.

Mobile Unit

The MOST has a specially equipped van (the County’s fleet vehicle modified using federal grant funds) to provide services to the public. The van is connected to the County’s computer-aided dispatch system and an on-board computer allows MOST clinicians to use the DHS electronic health record system. The vehicle includes harm reduction supplies, non-perishable food, water, a defibrillator, clothing and hygiene items.

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