First Step launches teams to respond to emergencies

Mobile Response Team and Behavioral Health Response Team to Work with Law Enforcement

Jan. 1, 2021

Mobile Response Team (MRT) 941-364-9355


Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, First Step of Sarasota will provide a Mobile Response Team (MRT) that will provide around-the-clock 24/7/365 intervention through First Step's Access Center to youths, adults and families who are experiencing a mental health and/or substance use crisis.

The MRT provides immediate emergency interventions for all residents of all ages who are experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis. Services are available at a home, school or elsewhere in the community or at First Step's Access Center at 1451 10th St., Sarasota, or via phone or telehealth.

Interventions are provided by a multi-disciplinary team of mental health and substance use professionals who work with individuals and families to create a comprehensive
plan for stabilization and sustained recovery. The MRT is available to all residents and all ages in Sarasota County. The team will respond to all calls for services and will provide a 72-hour follow up.

The team will serve low income, uninsured clients as well as those who have Medicare, Medicaid and most commercial insurance coverage. 

The MRT will support the community by:
  • Responding to requests within 60 minutes
  • Providing behavioral health crisis-oriented services that are responsive to the individual and family needs
  • Responding to crisis where it is occurring
  • Provide screening, standardized assessments, early identification and links to community services
  • Including family members whenever possible 
  • Developing a care and safety plan
  • Providing care coordination by facilitating the transition to ongoing services through a warm hand-off, including psychiatric evaluation and medication management
  • Ensuring informed consent and HIPPA compliance
  • Promoting information sharing and use of innovative technology, i.e.: mobile applications and telehealth sessions
Behavioral Health Response Team (BHRT) 941-364-9355


First Step of Sarasota's Behavioral Health Response Team (BHRT) is a pilot program aimed at high-need clients — people who often have unmet care needs, serious
mental health, substance use and co-occurring diagnoses and at least two hospitalizations during the previous 12 months. The BHRT will respond 24/7/365 to homes, hospitals, offices or anywhere else in the community where a a high-need adult (18+) needs immediate behavioral health support and is in crisis. First Step previously served these clients after they have been admitted to either Detox or the Crisis Unit voluntarily or under the Baker or Marchman Acts.


The program will ask these clients to work with us to help divert a crisis and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. The goals are to lessen trauma, divert from emergency departments, prevent unnecessary psychiatric hospitalizations and collaborate with law enforcement when a behavioral health crisis involves a high-need client.

The BHRT will use experienced, Masters-level and licensed clinicians in partnership with psychiatrists, nurses and law enforcement officers to provide therapeutic interventions in the community in addition to on-site services. The team will be trained in crisis intervention to ensure timely access to support and services. They will help to resolve the crisis and will work with the individual and their families to identify and develop safety plans and other strategies for so the individual can remain in the least restrictive environment.

The BHRT will work with community stakeholders; law enforcement and health emergency responders, businesses and other health and human service related providers, to develop a plan for immediate response, de-escalation and stabilization. The BHRT will follow the client for two weeks.

The program will:
  • Address the needs of this population by creating a person-centered treatment and safety plan
  • Provide onsite, face-to-face therapeutic responses, including short-term, solution-focused counseling
  • Respond rapidly, assess effectively and deliver a course of treatment
  • Offer medically necessary services in the least-restrictive environment that is most conducive to stabilization and recovery
  • Promote recovery, ensure safety, and stabilize the crisis
  • Facilitate access to other levels of care, including inpatient and outpatient resources
  • Refer and link to community-based providers
  • Schedule outpatient follow-up known as a warm transfer handoff to support ongoing care
  • Create safety plans in collaboration with the client's behavioral health care providers
  • Intervene early to prevent costly and unnecessary stays in hospitals and corrections facilities
  • Evaluate and initiate the Baker Act and the Marchman Act, as needed, in partnership with local law enforcement

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FIRST STEP OF SARASOTA, INC. IS A 501 (C ) (3) ORGANIZATION. A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION ON CH1573 MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL FREE 800 435 7352 WITHIN THE STATE. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.