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    Maryland lawmakers want to modernize mental health services

    February 17, 2023 GMT

    ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A bipartisan group of Maryland lawmakers on Friday gathered to express their support for a package of legislation to modernize and improve access to mental health services in the state.

    The measures focus on getting people help earlier, preferably in community and primary care settings, before they experience a mental health crisis requiring costly trips to the emergency room or in-patient care.

    “Today we are here saying in this post-pandemic period we are going to do what it takes in Maryland to create a world-class mental health system,” Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said at a news conference with senators from both parties.

    Sen. Steve Hershey, the Senate minority leader, said state officials need to help Maryland’s community of behavioral health care providers.

    “We as legislators can help by providing policies that allow and encourage flexibility and innovation in meeting the needs of kids, adults and our seniors, and by seeking the financial resources to ensure that a qualified workforce stands ready to do the work,” Hershey, an Eastern Shore Republican, said.

    The Maryland Senate already has passed a measure setting aside $12 million in 2025 to fund the 988 suicide and crisis prevention hotline. The bill is now in the House. The state health department designated 988 as Maryland’s behavioral health crisis hotline in July 2022.

    Earlier this week, Democratic Gov. Wes Moore assured a gathering of mental health advocates that they would have strong allies in Annapolis.

    “In order for our state to do what our state needs to do, we need for the issues that you are advocating for to be lifted up, to have resources put behind them and to know that you’re going to have champions on every floor of the State House and champions throughout every corner of this state,” Moore said Wednesday at a reception of the Mental Health Association of Maryland.

    Here’s a look at some of the other measures outlined by lawmakers:


    The Maryland Department of Health would be required to provide reimbursement for services provided in accordance with the Collaborative Care Model in primary care settings that provide services to Medicaid recipients.


    The health department would be required to expand access to intensive in-home, and case management behavioral services for youths.


    Coverage of telehealth would be extended to June 30, 2025 by the Maryland Medical Assistance Program and certain insurers, nonprofit health services plans and health maintenance organizations.


    The health department would be required to submit a plan to create certified community health clinics.


    A new commission would be created to make recommendations to provide behavioral health services and identify needs and gaps in services across the state.