Partner Spotlight: The Department of Mental Health and the Continuum of Care

Partner Spotlight: The Department of Mental Health and the Continuum of Care

2024 is the 75th anniversary of Mental Health Awareness Month. There are myriad connections between physical health, mental health, and the community. The social determinants of health, one of UProot’s two priority areas, affect mental health as much as they do physical health. 

The Continuum of Care

For the Mississippi State Department of Mental Health, the continuum of care (CoC) is for people experiencing a mental health crisis.

The DMH CoC provides three layers of care: Someone to talk to, someone to respond, and somewhere to go. The first layer, “someone to talk to,” is in the form of the national 988 hotline, and also a statewide DMH crisis line.

Someone to Talk To

The first layer of the CoC should be the one with the widest reach, the one that is easiest to access. For DMH, it’s as simple as a phone call, text message, or web chat. An easy-to-use, public-facing point of contact is important. For most groups, a phone number, email or contact form on a website is enough.

By the way, you can contact us!

Someone to Respond

For DMH, “someone to respond” is a “Crisis Intervention Team.”  They are partnerships between law enforcement officers and various agencies, including Community Mental Health Centers, primary health providers, and other behavioral health professionals. They are well-trained in crisis situations, and unlike traditional law enforcement officers, they receive hands-on instruction in de-escalation techniques. They are there to divert individuals from a possible arrest and get them into a setting where they can receive services for their illness.

Key takeaways for community organizations can be applicable. First, crisis teams come to the people who need them. Your organization can manage this by bringing portable versions of your services to people where they work, live, or play.

The second notable feature is that it represents an escalation of involvement from the previous example.

For a group promoting breastfeeding, for example, having a single point of contact to answer questions and email or text information would be the “someone to talk to.”  Then, your second layer of preparation would be “someone to respond.”

Your organization can build a presentation in a box – with flyers, banners, posters with QR codes, promotional merch – everything a knowledgeable, trained ambassador would need.

A great example of covering both “someone to talk to” and “someone to respond” would be Move to Learn. M2L has videos available for classrooms, but can also bring fitness exercises and movement-based learning boosters to schools across Mississippi.

Some Place to Go

For DMH, the third layer of the CoC—some place to go—is a statewide network of facilities. For people in a psychiatric crisis, they have Crisis Stabilization Units, which provide stabilization and treatment services, while for more general care, there is a network of Community Mental Health Centers.

“A place to go” has been a cornerstone for many of our UProot success stories. 

Consider Operation Shoestring. Without their facility, their life-improving after school programs could not exist. Their entire service is centered around being a place for their community. 

Similarly, the ARK in Jackson is a place people can go for fitness and education. Both of these organizations offer people who can come speak and work in the community, and have singular, easy-to-use points of contact, showing that the concept of a Continuum of Care isn’t just for dedicated healthcare professionals, but for any community looking to improve their social determinants of health.

A “place to go” doesn’t have to be brick and mortar: your website can provide a resource guide, for example, and many municipalities have a community center to host programming.

Community Tips

Your organization may not need all three steps of the continuum of care. They may need more than three. Consider having more than one level of response, whatever service you provide.

This continuum does not represent all of what the Department of Mental Health does. To learn more about the Department of Mental Health and its many forms of care, visit

To request specialized suicide prevention presentations from the Department of Mental Health’s “Shatter the Silence” program, visit Shatter the Silence or call 601-359-1288.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, the helpline mentioned earlier is available at 1-877-210-8513, at, or via the national 988 hotline.

If you know of someone out there who is working hard to make Mississippi a healthier place, let us know!