Maryland’s first 24/7 option for people needing immediate access to behavioral and mental health and addiction services was dedicated Tuesday and named after Harford County’s Klein family.
The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center in Bel Air will offer round-the-clock care for anyone experiencing a behavioral health crisis, including their family.
The crisis center’s “biggest champion” was Andrew Klein, president of Klein Family Markets, said Lyle Sheldon, president of University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Klein was killed in a car crash on Route 24 in Bel Air March 11.
“At Andrew’s funeral, I said ‘To know Andy is to love Andy.’ I’d like to take that one step further and I would say ‘To know the Klein family is to love them,’” Sheldon said. “As we look around this community, the generosity of the Klein family is ever-present. The family has supported every aspect of our community’s life. I, like many of you, are humbled by their generosity, their passion and their commitment.”
When it officially opens June 10, the Klein Family Harford Crisis Center will serve as an urgent care center for behavioral health issues, which often involve addiction, said Pamela Llewellyn, Upper Chesapeake’s regional director of behavioral health, who will oversee the crisis center.
“Studies show when a person is ready to recover, they have that moment of courage, it may be very fleeting, they have to have immediate access,” Steve Schuh, executive director of the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center, said. “That’s why this round-the-clock capacity is so important — for assessment, stabilization, referrals to care and peer support.”
Before the opening of the Harford Crisis Center, patients could go to the emergency room, where they would be stabilized, then discharged, often without the ongoing behavioral health care they need. Or they steal, overdose or do something else of desperation and law enforcement must intervene, said Dr. Russell Moy, health officer for Harford County Health Department.
Only the really fortunate know where the resources are to really get help.
“If you don’t have that ‘in,’ then you may be out of luck,” Moy said. “That is what we hope the Harford Crisis Center will be, the ‘in.’”
It will be a place for people to go where staff know the resources available, can guide them through the health care maze and “divert people in crisis away from the ER, away from jail, to get the help they need,” Moy said.
The Harford Crisis Center has 24/7 hotline and mobile crisis team, a 24/7 behavioral health walk-in urgent care clinic, residential crisis beds and outpatient treatment options. Psychotherapy, medication management services for mental health issues and outpatient substance use treatment provided by Ashley Addiction Treatment — which will move from the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center campus to the crisis center in the fall — are among the treatment options offered.
It is expected to serve 3,000 to 5,000 people each year.
In September 2016, a statewide Behavioral Health Task Force released its initial findings and recommended, among other things, creating an infrastructure to provide immediate access to care for those experiencing a behavioral health crisis and integrating and coordinating behavioral health so it is delivered in an appropriate setting, Sheldon said.
“The Harford Crisis Center is a perfect example of the great good that can come of a community coming together to solve a serious problem,” he said.
The crisis center is a partnership, made up of the public and private sectors, local and state governments and providers and advocates, including Upper Chespeake Health, Harford County Government, Harford County Health Department, Health Harford/Healthy Cecil, Office on Mental Health and the Affiliated Sante Group, which has answered 1,600 calls to the hotline since it became available in October.
“It shows what a community can do when faced with a crisis, the overdose crisis,” Moy said. .
After seven straight years of increases in the number of opioid deaths in Harford County, the number fell by 3 percent from 2017 to 2018.
Harford saw 90 fatal overdoses in 2018, down from 93 the year prior, according to the state’s Opioid Operational Command Center, which recently released preliminary figures from the Department of Health.
“That’s still to many deaths, but even with a smaller drop we hope we’re finally turning the curve after seven straight years of increases,” Moy said, while pointing out Harford has the ninth-worst opioid overdose rate in Maryland.
Thus far, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office’s reported at least 141 overdoses and 23 related deaths in 2019.
“It’s wonderful to see how the community comes together, for the community that is hurting, because of compassion,” said Craig McLaughlin, pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church.
McLaughlin lost his daughter, Hannah, five years ago to an overdose and mental health and addiction issues were involved.
“This is so needed and it is just so beautiful it makes me cry to stand up here and see all of you all here committed to this work,” McLaughlin who provided the opening prayer, said. “So I’m very grateful and I’m very thankful.”
May is Behavioral Health Month, Sheldon said.
“Though we in health care don’t need a designated month to know that our nation, our state and our county is in a behavioral health crisis,” he said, citing statistics that more than one-quarter of adults experience some type of behavioral health disorder in a given year.
“As Pastor Craig said, just as it’s personal for him, it’s personal for me,” Sheldon said. “I lost two siblings, a younger sister … and a older sister ... to substance abuse and behavioral health issues.”
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman called it a special day.
“It’s a glorious time for the county,” Glassman said. “I haven’t worked on something in a long time that meant so much to me as we bring mental wellness out of the shadows and we provide access to folks here in the county.”
“We are on Earth for a very, very short time, and every day I try to make the world a better place and my community better and healthier and to make God happy every day,” Andy Klein said in a video about the Harford Crisis Center.
The video showed at the ribbon-cutting included clips from Klein before his death and others who shared what he meant to the project.
When Klein saw the opioid epidemic exploding around Harford County, he felt the need to do something about it, Sheldon said in the video.
“He started those conversations with us back in 2016, with the constant chirping that we need to do something, we need to do something, we need to do something,” Sheldon said.
“It starts with the family,” Klein said in the video. “What happens in the family, the family dynamics, the families themselves never really had a consolidated outlet on literally on where to direct their loved ones to go.
“There weren’t too many people that were on board with this concept yet. Like everything else, I had to spur the leadership on for a little bit of action.
“Our vision for 2020, for better health care in Harford County, is coming to fruition, and we’re all there with you. That’s what it’s really about, to be a resident of Harford County, that I’m your friend, I’m your partner,” Klein said. “Someday, I’m going to be there for you and I’m going to know that my work has meaning. As I said, we’re only on the earth for a very, very short time, we have to do the most of every day to make God happy.”
The video was heart-wrenching to watch, Klein’s widow, Jayne Klein said.
“I’m proud that Andy had the vision to put this together, that he started talking to people,” she said.
He wrote a check and a consultant was hired to figure out what needed to be done, she said.
She is honored the center will bear her family’s name.
“I hope it makes a difference in the community and becomes a centerpiece for people with problems and people can get the help they need,” Jayne Klein said.