Giving addicts HOPE

A recent article ("Plan for heroin crisis centers in Maryland scaled back," March 31) reported that the Maryland House of Delegates advanced a version of the HOPE Act — an omnibus proposal to address Maryland's behavioral health crisis — that scaled down the number of proposed crisis treatment centers. However, there is more to this story than just changing a specific number in the bill.

The amended bill requires any crisis treatment centers to be established in a manner consistent with forthcoming recommendations from the Maryland Behavioral Health Advisory Council. Crisis centers are important. They can significantly reduce preventable behavioral health crises and offer earlier intervention to stabilize crises, but only if these services are available and accessible when the crisis arises.

A 2016 bill required the council to develop a strategic plan for ensuring that clinical crisis walk-in services and mobile crisis teams are available statewide around the clock. A final report on that work is due to the legislature in December. Waiting for those results before prescribing a predetermined number of centers in statute seems like a responsible and wise approach.

The HOPE Act is a thoughtful and comprehensive measure to tackle a crisis that is devastating Maryland families. I thank Dels. Eric Bromwell, Nic Kipke and members of the House Health and Government Operations Committee for their vision and commitment. Furthermore, I look forward to working with them next session in a continuing effort to expand and enhance crisis treatment services for those living with mental health and substance use disorders.

Dan Martin, Lutherville

The writer is director of public policy for the Mental Health Association of Maryland and co-chairman of the Maryland Behavioral Health Advisory Council.

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