We at the William James College INTERFACE Referral Service are keenly aware of the shortage of mental health providers of color and how racial inequities exist in medical and mental health care. The College’s Black Mental Health Academy, Center for Multicultural and Global Mental Health, and other programs and academic offerings are playing a critical role in reversing this trend. We invite you to read a statement from our Black Mental Health Graduate Academy Scholars, and to stand with us as allies to drive change and address systemic racism.

Emergency Service Programs response to COVID 19

General Overview of Emergency Service Programs

Emergency Service Programs, also known as ESP’s provide crisis assessment, intervention and stabilization services for both mental health and addiction-related emergencies. Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The goal of ESP’s, whenever possible, is to help individuals avoid a lengthy hospital emergency room visit by offering community-based alternatives, in which individuals and/or families can be seen in more comfortable and less stressful environments.  ESP's will work with the client in crisis to develop a strategy that promotes long term stability in the least restrictive environment possible.  Crisis evaluations can generally be provided at ESP office locations, schools, homes, residential facilities, and other community settings. When a client is at risk to themselves or others and it is deemed unsafe for an ESP clinician to come out to the home to do an evaluation, ESP teams will also evaluate clients in their local hospital emergency rooms. Anyone may call for assistance regarding a mental health crisis or urgent need for substance use intervention. This includes the individual experiencing the crisis, family members, mental health workers, first responders, physicians or other medical providers, schools, employers, community members, etc.

Who qualifies for ESP services?

  • ESP services are covered by most insurance plans, including all MassHealth (Medicaid) and Medicare plans, as well as people without insurance.
  • Children and young adults up to age 21 who are enrolled in any MassHealth and any form of commercial insurance are generally also eligible to receive Mobile Crisis Intervention (MCI). This is a short-term (up to 72 hours) mobile, on-site, face-to-face crisis intervention. An emergency service provider will generally attend to the child in any setting where the child is located in their community. The clinician will additionally follow up with the youth or caregiver of the youth for up to seven days after the evaluation.
  • The state of Massachusetts is divided into 21 catchment areas which cover every town throughout the state. One Emergency Service Provider or team is assigned for each catchment area. To find out what catchment area and team covers your town, you can consult an online list for the whole state, or call the statewide ESP toll-free number, 877-382-1609 and enter your zip code to find out which team covers your area.

Updates regarding Emergency Service Providers and COVID-19                                                       

All emergency service providers throughout the state will still be operating 24 hours, 7 days a week during the COVID-19 virus.  Due to the fact that the virus is highly contagious, all emergency service providers will be screening clients for potential symptoms of COVID-19 before sending a clinician out to the home or having the client come in to the office for an evaluation.  Some emergency service providers are in the process of setting-up telemental crisis evaluations in order to avoid any type of direct contact with their clients.  We highly recommend that when you contact your local emergency service provider, you ask them about the current protocols that they are using to conduct crisis evaluations.

Current Response

Please see below for a listing of many of the emergency service providers throughout the state and how they plan to conduct crisis evaluations throughout the course of the COVID-19 virus.  Please note that this information is subject to change and we recommend calling your local emergency services provider for the most updated information.   

Advocates: Staff are responding via telehealth and using phone and/or FaceTime for evaluations.  The only place they have staff responding face-to-face is at one of the Emergency Rooms that they cover. 

Child and Family Services of New Bedford: They are doing telemental health for home evaluations as long as it is appropriate for the situation and the family is in agreement.  For office based evaluations, they are screening clients for symptoms of COVID-19.

Community Counseling of Bristol County: They are still conducting crisis evaluations in the home and office, but will be screening clients for potential symptoms of COVID-19.

Community Healthlink: They are still providing home visits and having clients come to their office for on-site evaluations.  They are screening all callers over the phone for any potential symptoms of COVID-19. 

Elliot Community Services: They are still providing home visits and having clients come to their office for on-site evaluations.  They are screening all callers over the phone for any potential symptoms of COVID-19. 

Gosnold: They are primarily conducting crisis evaluations through telemental health and continue to see clients at the ER upon request.   

Lahey/Northeast Behavioral Health: They are not currently doing any in-person evaluations.  They are in the process of implementing telemental health crisis evaluations.  They are responding to ER requests as long as the client is not on any precautions related to COVID 19.

Riverside Community Care:  They will be screening people for symptoms of COVID-19, while continuing to offer home visits and in-office evaluations. They are in the process of moving to telemental health for all evaluations.

South Shore Mental Health (Aspire Mental Health):  They are still conducting crisis evaluations in the home and office, but will be screening clients for potential symptoms of COVID-19.

For additional information general information about emergency service providers and the services that they can offer, please see our General Guide about Accessing Psychiatric Emergency Services.