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Olszewski announces expansion of Baltimore County’s behavioral health crisis emergency services

TOWSON, MD—County Executive Johnny Olszewski on Tuesday announced plans to expand Baltimore County’s emergency crisis response programs to provide additional interventions to support residents experiencing behavioral health crises.

“This pandemic has challenged all us in unimaginable ways and government must do all we can to provide thoughtful, informed, and compassionate service to our residents in need,” Olszewski said. “This expansion is an important step forward that will help Baltimore County better provide those in crisis with the help they need while continuing to help our first responders to strengthen communities and save lives.”

In addition to severe public health and economic impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a growing and significant effect on residents’ mental and behavioral health.

After reviewing national best practices, proven public safety models, and an analysis of existing resources and external supports, Baltimore County will expand the Police Department’s Mobile Crisis Teams and create a 9-1-1 Call Center Clinician Program to assess and divert residents from criminal justice services to more appropriate behavioral health resources.

“Our goal is to provide innovative services that are both patient-focused and patient-friendly,” said Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Director of Health and Human Services and Baltimore County’s Health Officer. “Teaming licensed mental health clinicians with specially-trained police officers supports that public-health-focused approach to behavioral health issues.”

“Behavioral health issues present challenges to law enforcement that we cannot successfully mitigate alone,” Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said. “It takes collaboration with our valuable partners to divert individuals to the proper resources. Under this new initiative, we will have the opportunity to get more resources to the individuals who need them most.”

Baltimore County Police Mobile Crisis Team Expansion

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The Baltimore County Police Department currently utilizes a co-responder Mobile Crisis Team (MCT) model for mental health crises, in which a specially-trained police officer and a licensed mental health clinician are assigned to respond to behavioral health related calls-for-service, such as family conflicts, juvenile complaints, substance abuse, and other incidents requiring access to social service resources.

Under the new expansion announced today, Baltimore County will be able to increase MCT case capacity by 50 percent, expand coverage in each of the County’s three patrol divisions, and reduce response times for residents calling for service.

9-1-1 Call Center Clinician Program

In collaboration with the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Service, the Baltimore County 9-1-1 Communications Center will create a new Call Center Clinician program which will utilize mental health clinicians to help screen calls from residents and divert calls that do not involve imminent health or safety concerns to the appropriate behavioral health support.

Through this early intervention program, residents in crisis will be able to be more quickly connected with the most appropriate resources, more residents will be diverted from law enforcement and emergency services, and law enforcement will have increased capacity to respond to additional calls for service.

Utilizing federal funding, the one-year behavioral health expansion pilot program is expected to cost $1.6 million.

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