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"Increased Mental Health Challenges" Cause Baltimore County To Expand Crisis Intervention

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski at news conference in Towson, Tuesday, April 6, 2021.
Sean Naron/Baltimore County
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski at news conference in Towson, Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

$1.6 million pilot program will increase mobile crisis teams and add mental health professionals at the 9-1-1 center.

Baltimore County is expanding programs to help people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. County Executive Johnny Olszewski said the toll the COVID-19 pandemic is taking on mental health Is expected to grow in the months ahead.

In announcing Tuesday that the county will beef up how it intervenes, Olszewski cited last week’s mass murder in the county. Joshua Green, 27, killed five people including his parents and himself. According to police, family say Green struggled with behavioral health issues.

Olszewski said, “The unfortunate reality that we have to face here in Baltimore County and indeed that we must face in communities across this country, is that severe mental illness, when left untreated, can have tragic consequences.”

The county plans to put mental health clinicians in its 9-1-1 communications center to help screen calls. It also will increase the number of front-line mobile crisis teams that show up to things like family conflicts.

“Just last week alone, the mobile crisis team responded to 53 calls for service,” Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said. “But the true need for their response exceeds their current capacity.”

A crisis team is made up of a specially trained police officer and a mental health professional.

The county plans to increase by 50% the calls the team can take at peak times, which are during day and evening shifts.

The county is using $1.6 million in federal money to pay for the program. It is a one-year pilot study.

Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch said COVID-19 is affecting people in a variety of ways, including in mental health.

“The effects of job loss, increased anxiety and depression, they are a direct result of the pandemic,” Branch said. “The need for social distancing, and increased isolation are major contributors to increased mental health challenges.”

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2