April 07, 2021

Help Not Handcuffs

A webinar series focused on addressing mental health crises with comprehensive community responses

NAMI Ask The Expert — Help, Not Handcuffs
Part 3: Additional Community Models

April 22, 2021, 4 – 5:30 p.m. ET

In part three of our webinar series, experts from Georgia’s Behavioral Health Link and Arizona’s Connections Health Solutions will provide overviews of two models of community crisis response that have proven effective.

Following the presentations, NAMI’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ken Duckworth will lead a guided discussion and Q&A with our panel of experts.


Read the Transcript

Our Experts

Margie Balfour, M.D., Ph.D.Margie Balfour, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of Quality and Clinical Innovation, Connections Health Solutions

Dr. Margie Balfour is a psychiatrist and national leader in quality improvement and behavioral health crisis care. She is Chief of Quality and Clinical Innovation at Connections Health Solutions, which provides immediate 24/7 access to mental health and substance use care, and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Balfour was named Doctor of the Year by the National Council for Behavioral Health for her work at the Crisis Response Center in Tucson and received the Tucson Police Department’s medal of honor for helping law enforcement better serve people living with mental illness. She contributes to expert panels for SAMHSA and the Department of Justice. Her pioneering work on crisis metrics has been adopted as a national standard, and she co-authored Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System: Essential Elements, Measurable Standards, and Best Practices.

Dr. Balfour is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and serves on the Quality-of-Care Council. A native of Monroe, LA, she earned a B.A. in Biology at Johns Hopkins University followed by her M.D. and Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Cincinnati. She completed residency and fellowship in Community Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.


Eric EasonEric Eason, Community Services Director, Behavioral Health Link (BHL)
Eric Eason, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor (CPCS), has worked in mental health for more than 20 years. After 15 years of working in private psychiatric hospital settings, he discovered crisis work and realized he had found his new passion. With BHL since 2013, Eric has helped develop and implement Mobile Crisis Response Services, including community-response models and co-response models. He has also supported the operations of the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, helping to develop and improve their Care Traffic Control referral-tracking systems and processes. In his current role as Community Services Director, Eric directs four mobile programs that provide services to 104 counties in Georgia. These programs have successfully and safely diverted many thousands of persons in crisis away from hospitals, jails, and unnecessary hospitalization by linking them with more appropriate and effective local treatment services. He is an active member of Georgia’s CIT Advisory Board and participates in their sub-committee for Co-Responder teams.


Sue O’BrienSue Ann O’Brien, President and CEO, Behavioral Health Link (BHL)

Sue Ann O’Brien is a senior executive with BHL and RI International, leading contributors to the development of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Crisis Now exceptional practice standards in crisis care. Together, these two teams deliver a full continuum of best practice crisis services, powered by customized software and technology solutions and real-time access to mental health and substance use services; diverting thousands from hospital EDs and justice systems to care in communities throughout the U.S.

As CEO of BHL, Sue Ann leads a team of visionary crisis innovators whose breakthrough technology and crisis services have been featured worldwide. Recognized for innovation by the National Council for Behavioral Health, the Council of State Governments, Harvard University and others, BHL operates Georgia’s statewide Crisis and Access Line; offering the nation’s broadest application of advanced crisis call center technology through their Care Traffic Control system. BHL also delivers and/or deploys 24/7 community-based mobile crisis in all 159 Georgia counties.

With 25 years of senior leadership experience in behavioral health, Sue Ann aims to foster and create crisis care equivalents to the nation’s rapid response system for individuals with medical emergencies by making care available to anyone, anywhere and anytime. Together, these two strategic partners employ nearly 1,800 staff and have offices in Arizona, California, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington state as well as in New Zealand. Their impact continues to grow through consulting, training and crisis immersion experiences.

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).