Behavioral Health System Baltimore applauds the Social Welfare Action Alliance-Baltimore for their recent commentary that rightly recognizes that we must invest in alternatives to policing for behavioral health crisis response (”Police should be handling mental health crises,” July 7).
We often take for granted our emergency response system — police, fire, and hospitals. However, comprehensive behavioral health crisis response services are an essential component of an effective emergency response system. Without them, people end up unnecessarily calling the police and using emergency medical services and hospitals. Currently, behavioral health crisis services are not valued as part of emergency response, as evidenced by the limited resources to support a robust system.
Baltimore City has the Here2Help Hotline (410-433-5175), a 24-hour behavioral health hotline available to support people with a range of needs. If you call the hotline, you will immediately be connected to a trained counselor who can respond to your concerns and, if appropriate, send help to you in the community through an in-person mobile crisis team. This hotline can be an alternative to calling 911 for help with a behavioral health crisis.
While the hotline and mobile response team help tens of thousands of people each year, we need to do more. Evidence shows that with a robust, 24/7 behavioral health crisis response system, a majority of behavioral health crises can be resolved in the community without police involvement or the need for an emergency department visit. However, there must be broader, systemic investment in behavioral health crisis services. This is a shared obligation of the city and the state. Maryland’s system has been under-valued and under-resourced for too long.
We have to work together with the full support of and input from many stakeholders — the city and the state, Behavioral Health System Baltimore, hospitals, police, community-based providers, service recipients and their families, and many others — to re-evaluate how we are investing our resources to support the health and wellness of all people and the communities in which they live. If we don’t, our system will continue to fail the people it is trying to serve like Ricky Walker Jr.
Crista M. Taylor, Baltimore
The writer is president and CEO of Behavioral Health System Baltimore.
Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.