Harford Crisis Center opens for tour, set for spring opening

The Harford Crisis Center is under construction and expected to be fully operational in spring 2019.

The first of its kind in Maryland providing 24-hour behavioral, mental and addiction health services, the Harford Crisis Center was open Thursday for a preview for more than 140 community, health and business leaders. It is the first co-located, co-funded, public-private partnership to offer behavioral health services in Maryland.

Using architectural renderings, visitors were offered a 3D preview of the center. In addition, a symbolic "wall" covered with words provided by those in recovery that explain barriers to treatment ("fear," "access to help," "stigma," etc.) were on display, illustrating the problem the crisis center will work to solve.

The Harford Crisis Center, at 802 Baltimore Pike in Bel Air, will offer a 24/7 alternative to emergency department treatment for individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Its services, available in one non-hospital location, are expected to reduce the number of emergency department visits and inpatient admissions for Harford County residents in need of behavioral health services. Harford Crisis Center will serve individuals with mental health and/or substance use needs.

"There has been a need for a crisis center in Harford County for several years," Lyle Sheldon, president and CEO of University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, said. "We are fortunate to have committed community leaders who are able to identify challenges and who are willing to work together to overcome them. That spirit of cooperation is illustrated by the Harford Crisis Center. So many organizations have come together to make sure our friends and neighbors have access to 24/7 resources for behavioral, mental and addiction health services, so needed in our community today."

The first phase of the project, a 24/7 hotline (800-NEXT-STEP; 800-639-8783), is up and running. The crisis center is the home of the county's Mobile Crisis Team. Phase two includes establishment of an outpatient mental health service offering therapy and medication management. Phase three includes 24/7 walk-in/urgent outpatient mental health care and a 24/7 residential crisis center, opening with eight beds.

Ashley Addiction Treatment will be the first tenant to share the center’s space, moving its outpatient offerings from the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center campus to the Harford Crisis Center later this fall. It will continue to offer addiction services in this new location.

When fully up and running, it is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 patients will receive some type of treatment annually at the Harford Crisis Center.

The crisis center is managed by the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health in partnership with the Harford County Government, Healthy Harford/Healthy Cecil, Harford County Health Department and Office on Mental Health/Core Service Agency of Harford County Inc. and the Affiliated Santé Group.

"I want to thank our partners for their efforts to make the 24/7 hotline, around-the-clock mobile crisis services, and the future crisis center a reality,” Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said. “The services offered here will be a lifeline for Harford County families and will help them along a path to recovery and healing. Our goal is an environment where every crisis is met with dignity, compassion and quality care.”

Thursday’s preview was moderated by Sharon Lipford, executive director of Healthy Harford/Healthy Cecil, and included remarks from Sheldon; Glassman; Dr. Russell W. Moy, Harford County health officer; Dr. Barbara Bazron, deputy secretary, Behavioral Health Administration, Maryland Department of Health; and Myra Derbyshire, a peer recovery coach.

Those attending the preview were invited to meet the leadership and members of the crisis hotline team, Mobile Crisis Team, those in recovery, peer specialists and representatives from Ashley Addiction Treatment.

"The Harford Crisis Center is a perfect example of the public and private sectors working together to create a more integrated experience, in a single location, for those in need," Rod Kornrumpf, regional executive director-behavioral health, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, said. "The crisis hotline is really that easy-to-reach, less-confusing conduit that can open the door to access the rest of the services in that building and throughout Harford County. The goal has been and will be to make access to needed services much easier and appropriate."

"Launching the Harford Crisis Center addresses the county's top public health priorities — substance use disorders and mental health,” Moy, the county’s health officer, said. “The need for a 24/7 integrated behavioral health crisis center in Harford County was very clear, and community partners came together in an extraordinary way to make the center a reality. We are proud to be part of this critical effort to help those in need of treatment and recovery services."

Earlier this month, Harford County's first 24/7 behavioral health, mental health and addiction services crisis hotline, 800-NEXT-STEP (800-639-8783), was announced.

When someone in crisis calls the new hotline, he/she will reach a behavioral health expert who has rapid access to the Mobile Crisis Team in addition to the most up-to-date information about behavioral health and addiction services providers across the region. Peer specialists in recovery will also be available to callers. Follow-up with callers will be coordinated by care navigators.

"Access to immediate treatment and coordination of care are two of the most important services that will take place at the Harford Crisis Center," Jessica Kraus, executive director of the Office on Mental Health/Core Service Agency of Harford County Inc., said. "The 24/7 hotline and Mobile Crisis Team will work hand in hand with other services including therapy and medication management as well as walk-in/urgent outpatient mental health care and a residential crisis center. Wellness and recovery are our ultimate goals."

In addition, the hotline is being linked to 2-1-1 Maryland, a 24/7 statewide health and human service referral provider, to share resources and provide a seamless, regional approach to people in crisis.

Behavioral health encompasses common issues such as anxiety and depression, alcohol and substance-related disorders as well as the lesser occurring issues such as schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

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