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Program aims to boost response to mental health crises

July 9, 2021 GMT

TOWSON, Md. (AP) — Mobile crisis teams in Baltimore County respond to fewer than half of calls to help people having mental health crises. But The Baltimore Sun reports that a pilot program funded by a $1.6 million federal grant aims to add more behavioral health professionals and set up a system to redirect some 911 calls from police to behavioral health resources.

Of 4,319 calls for service since September, crisis teams have responded to 1,844, according to police data. When teams aren’t available — about 57% of the time — requests for aid are re-routed to officers, according to Police Chief Melissa Hyatt.

“We have a significant capacity limitation,” Hyatt told lawmakers during a state Commission to Study Mental and Behavioral Health briefing earlier this year.

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There are 20 part-time and full-time clinicians and 12 officers with 40 hours of crisis intervention training in the county of nearly 830,000 residents.

Next month, officials begin planning the program’s rollout, police spokeswoman Joy Stewart said. The program was announced just weeks before a May rampage in which a man set his Woodlawn home on fire and killed three neighbors before police killed him. Police said crisis teams had previous interactions with him, but didn’t disclose more details.