Editorial: Carroll needs crisis intervention team

On Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners will be asked to sign off on the Carroll County Health Department's plan to use more than $138,000 in state grant funding to add a mobile crisis team to assist in the battle against the heroin and opioid epidemic that has already seen more than two dozen lives in Carroll lost to overdoses this year.

The funding is part of $4 million distributed across the state's 23 counties and Baltimore City by the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention to local opioid intervention teams, which can decide how best to use the money.


Carroll's team, which is headed up by the Health Department and the county's Emergency Management Department, had its first meeting with leaders from about 15 different county organizations and agencies dealing with the opioid crisis in May, and developed a list or priorities based on gaps and needs to prevent the epidemic from getting worse.

The group identified the following priorities: additional teams and shifts for crisis intervention services, hospital holds for drug use evaluation, improving the follow-up process with nonfatal and repeat overdose victims by expediting data sharing, expansion of peer support counselor programs, awareness and prevention education for high school students, and a public information campaign regarding pain management.

All seem like strong ideas, and some of the initiatives are already under way, according to a briefing paper from the Health Department to the county commissioners. But the Health Department is seeking the commissioners' approval to use the full amount of the grant toward the group's highest priority item: crisis intervention services.

Currently, among Maryland's counties and Baltimore, Carroll is one of just three jurisdictions in the state that doesn't offer crisis services.

Crisis services would not only help people with addiction issues, but also those in the midst of a crisis of mental health, which is often linked to substance abuse and addiction.

One of the county's current problems, according to Health Officer Ed Singer, is that while local law enforcement has been trained on how to intervene with people having a mental health or substance use-related crisis and police may pick up someone who is being disruptive late at night in the middle of such a crisis, when taken to the emergency room, these individuals often don't meet the medical necessity for admission and are back on the street within hours.

The hope is to use the state grant money, in combination with another grant, to fund two shifts of a mobile crisis intervention team, including peer counselors and a social worker, who would be available late at night when agencies and service providers that assist people having a behavioral health crisis are not normally open.

These teams would work to link clients with appropriate services and prevent the revolving door that seems to occur when they are taken to the ER, making sure they get the treatment they need.

Getting these individuals connected with the appropriate services and treatment to begin the road to recovery is a necessity to overcoming the heroin and opioid epidemic, and these teams would provide round-the-clock coverage to help do just that.

We implore the commissioners to concur with the recommendations of the county's health and public safety leaders who are on the front lines of this plague, and let them move forward with establishing these crisis intervention teams as soon as possible.