Baltimore Behavioral Health Pilot Program Aims to Provide New Services to Youth – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Mayor Brandon Scott announced Thursday the launch of a public dashboard that allows Baltimoreans to track the progress of a behavioral health pilot program that is diverting some 911 calls to community partners and behavioral health specialists.

The pilot program directs some calls to a Here2Help line, which is a mental health services line operated by Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. (BCRI).

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The BCRI is made up of trained mental health clinicians, according to city officials.

The main purpose of the Here2Help line is to resolve calls over the phone and, in some cases, to dispatch a team of clinical responders.

Scott described the program as “essential” and “part of a vision” of a response system that provides people with the services and resources that will help them while preventing them from unnecessarily contacting the police.

The pilot program began by diverting two types of suicidal ideation calls, city officials said.

This year, through the quality assurance process, the program expanded to include a third similar type of appeal in April, the mayor’s office said.

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This third type of appeal includes young people under the age of 18. This group is eligible for diversion because the pilot program created youth-focused mobile crisis teams, city officials said.

This provision is due to shortcomings in youth crisis services in Baltimore.

In addition, the 911 call center has a behavioral health clinician who is responsible for determining the most appropriate response to a person in crisis.

“Defining what policing looks like for a community is one of the most important decisions any local government can make,” Scott said. “Clearly, status quo solutions for policing, public safety and meeting the needs of those experiencing behavioral health crises are not providing the best outcomes for our residents.”

This method of directing callers to the appropriate resources is consistent with federal guidelines and Baltimore Consent Executive Order requirements with the Department of Justice, and demonstrates a commitment to addressing gaps in the public behavioral health system, said the town.

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The city said having a behavioral health clinician in the call center is a practice that has been adopted in several communities across the country.

Ryan H. Bowman