Trends and Geographic Availability of Emergency Psychiatric Walk-In and Crisis Services in the United States

Luther G. Kalb, Calliope Holingue, Emma K. Stapp, Kathryn Van Eck, Johannes Thrul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Serious mental illness places a considerable burden on the mental health service system in the United States. To date, no research has examined the availability of psychiatric emergency walk-in and crisis services. The goal of this study was to examine temporal trends, geographic variation, and characteristics of psychiatric facilities that provide emergency psychiatric walk-in and crisis services across the United States. METHODS: The authors used cross-sectional, annually collected data covering the 2014-2018 period from the National Mental Health Services Survey (N-MHSS), a representative survey of both public and private mental health treatment facilities in the United States. RESULTS: Overall, 42.6% of all U.S. mental health facilities did not offer any mental health crisis services between 2014 and 2018. A third of all facilities (33.5%) offered emergency psychiatric walk-in services, and just under one-half (48.3%) provided crisis services. When examining population-adjusted estimates, the authors noted a 15.8% (1.52-1.28 per 100,000 U.S. adults) and 7.5% (2.01-1.86 per 100,000 U.S. adults) decrease in walk-in and crisis services, respectively, from 2014 to 2018. Large geographic variation in service availability was also observed. CONCLUSION: A large proportion of psychiatric facilities in the United States do not provide psychiatric walk-in or crisis services. Availability of these services either has stayed flat or is declining. Disparities, particularly around U.S. borders and coasts, suggest policy efforts would be valuable for ensuring equitable service availability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-31
Number of pages6
JournalPsychiatric services (Washington, D.C.)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Crisis intervention
  • Emergency care
  • Epidemiology
  • Serious mental illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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