BALTIMORE — The Maryland Department of Health Friday announced two initiatives to expand child and adolescent services, in addition to peer recovery services, to help Marylanders who are experiencing behavioral health crises. Beginning this week, MDH will issue $17.7 million in grant funding among local behavioral health authorities statewide to help increase access to walk-in and urgent care services.
“Crisis service expansion is essential to help reduce strain on hospital systems and make sure individuals are connected with appropriate care,” said MDH Secretary Dennis R. Schrader. “By identifying and addressing gaps in the system, we’re replacing barriers to care with evidence-based practices.”
The number of young people visiting the emergency department for mental health needs— particularly for deliberate self-harm —has increased nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates of childhood mental health concerns and suicide rose steadily between 2010 and 2020, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the crisis.
In response, the MDH Behavioral Health Administration’s child and adolescent crisis services expansion will provide $15.4 million to expand mobile crisis services and launch youth-specific Mobile Response and Stabilization Services. Funding was made available through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration via the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant and the COVID-19 Supplemental Block Grant.
The MRSS crisis model — currently operating in Harford County and the greater Mid-Shore region — will expand into Allegany, Garrett, Washington, Frederick, St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles Counties over the next three months, with the goal of expanding into more areas as additional funding is made available.
While rates of anxiety and depression have shown a decrease within the past year, they remain high compared to pre-COVID levels — not only among youth, but also among adults. In January, 32 percent of adults surveyed reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. As MDH previously reported, more than 13 percent of people started or increased substance use to cope with stress.
Peer recovery is an evidence-based approach to help people connect more closely with community-based organizations through shared experiences in recovery. BHA’s crisis peer services expansion will provide $2.3 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act Supplemental Mental Health Block Grant to expand peer recovery support for individuals who use crisis services through behavioral health crisis walk-in centers and urgent care centers.
Using the Peer Crisis Model, expanding peer crisis services will help connect people who are experiencing a crisis with a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist to help navigate community-based treatment resources and prevent future crises. Program expansion will initially support more than 1,300 individuals in Harford, Howard, Frederick, St. Mary’s and Worcester counties. BHA’s goal is to reach up to 12 jurisdictions by 2025.
“A cohesive crisis system is vital to help young people and adults at significantly vulnerable junctures in their lives,” said BHA Deputy Secretary Dr. Aliya Jones. “We are expanding opportunities to ensure people are connected with immediate, appropriate and sustained care.”
People experiencing a mental health crisis, including thoughts of suicide, should contact Maryland’s helpline by calling 211 and pressing 1, texting 898-211, or visiting pressone.211md.org.