Frederick County law enforcement will now be able to call on a team of counselors and other specialists to help people experiencing a crisis under a program announced Tuesday.
This week, the county began the Mobile Crisis Services team, which provides social workers, counselors and other specialists to help people experiencing mental health, substance abuse, homelessness or other issues, County Executive Jan Gardner announced.
The service, which will be managed by the Frederick County Health Department's Behavioral Health Services through an agreement with Sheppard Pratt, will be available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week for adults and 24 hours a day for children.
The program will expand to full 24-hour services for everyone in June.
The mobile team can be requested by law enforcement to help with calls they respond to or by family or others through the county's 911 center or the 211 crisis hotline, which is maintained by the Mental Health Association of Frederick County.
There's been a huge increase in demand for mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many people don't know where to turn when their lives get turned upside down, Gardner (D) said.
When the team members arrive at a scene, they will evaluate the patient and determine what services they may need, said Scott Rose, chief of rehabilitation and recovery services at Sheppard Pratt.
Counselors will also contact the patient or their family the day after a call to follow up, and they will provide ongoing monitoring to check the effectiveness of services, he said.
Timely access to care and a compassionate response can significantly improve outcomes on situations to which they respond, said Andrea Walker, director of behavioral health services at the Frederick County Health Department.
The new team will help establish a “comprehensive continuum of care,” she said.
Expanding to 24-hour services will be a key step.
“We recognize that crisis doesn't operate on a schedule,” Walker said.
Gardner said she met with Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R) about the program as well as officials from the Frederick, Brunswick and Thurmont police departments, which will also use the service.
The sheriff's office is committed to working with the new program to improve the response to local crisis situations, Capt. Jeff Eyler, the office's patrol operations commander, said in an email Tuesday.
“Daily, deputies encounter members of our community that are in crisis,” Eyler said. “The expansion of these services will allow our personnel to regularly consult with professionals from Mobile Crisis Services and provide those in crisis with the appropriate resources in a more timely manner.”
In August, Frederick County Council approved a $130,000 transfer from the sheriff's office's budget to help fund the program, as well as $275,000 in January from the county budget as part of a larger transfer.