The Johns Hopkins University plans in the fall to begin sending trained mental health providers on calls to campus security from students and staff who may be having a crisis.
The move is similar to pilot programs recently announced in Baltimore city and county, and reflects a movement around the country to better tend to the mental health needs of the community and avoid unnecessary police involvement.
“It became clear that many of the calls being addressed by campus safety and security could be more effectively and appropriately handled by behavioral health clinicians,” said Ronald J. Daniels, the university president, and other Hopkins leaders in a message to the Hopkins community.
“Put simply, it was time for a new approach,” the message read. The Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team “will provide immediate assistance to those who need it and, just as importantly, link individuals in crisis to ongoing university support services in the days and weeks that follow.”
The plan is to pilot the program for the first year around the Homewood campus. Officials will respond to calls from affiliated students and staff, as well as others who live in the close-in communities.
Hopkins will bring on its own mental health team to partner with campus security, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. In addition to providing immediate assistance, the team will provide short-term mental health support and access to continuation of care.
For those in the community, the university will hand off follow-up support to the nonprofit Baltimore Crisis Response Inc., which also will staff calls to 911 in the city. The Hopkins program has the support of Baltimore’s leadership.
Hopkins security staff also has gone through training to handle behavioral health crises, which are about a third of the calls to campus security.
University officials said they decided to launch their own pilot program following feedback from a task force on student health in 2018 and, more recently, after engaging with the broader Hopkins community in the past several months, said Kevin Shollenberger, vice provost for student health and well-being.
He said he believes Hopkins is among the first universities to implement such a program, though many campuses joined cities in discussions about overhauling their police and security staffs after protests against police violence erupted nationwide following the death last year of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
Last June, Hopkins suspended its own controversial plans to create an armed police force so it could participate in discussions over police reform.
Shollenberger said Hopkins’ current plans are focused on adding the mental health providers in the fall and eventually expanding the program to the medical campus in East Baltimore and other locations around the city where the university has a presence.