Sep. 23—Frederick County plans to expand a program that brings social workers and mental health professionals to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis or drug misuse, County Executive Jan Gardner said Thursday.
Between July 2021 and June 2022, the Mobile Crisis Services team provided more than 400 assessments and interventions and assisted more than 1,000 people, including through follow-ups with people who experienced crisis and with their friends and family.
The team responded to calls for people experiencing suicidal thoughts, psychosis, dementia and anxiety, Gardner said. Sheppard Pratt, which has an Outpatient Mental Health Center in Frederick, staffed the mobile crisis team.
The team helped to prevent crises from recurring, followed up with people with ongoing treatment options and, in some cases, accompanied them to treatment appointments.
"Without a doubt, our mobile crisis program has been a success," Gardner said during a press briefing Thursday.
The mobile crisis team responds to requests from the Sheriff's Office, the county's 911 center or the 211 and 988 crisis hotlines that the Mental Health Association of Frederick County manages.
The mobile crisis team, which operates 24 hours every day, worked and responded primarily in Frederick and areas surrounding the city.
But with only one team covering the state's largest geographical county, the team couldn't effectively reach the more rural areas of the county, Gardner said.
Frederick County Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer said during the press briefing that "the value of crisis services is predicated on accessibility."
"Timely access to crisis services can reduce the intensity and the duration of the issue and, also, can reduce the anxiety and potential trauma that a person may experience," she said.
To expand the program, Gardner included $756,000 in the county's $792 million budget for the fiscal year that began in July.
The budget funding will be used to launch a second team of crisis response specialists that will respond to residents living outside the city.
Sheppard Pratt has begun recruiting mobile crisis staff members. The new team will be operational once the members have completed the necessary training, likely in the coming weeks, Gardner said.
The new mobile crisis team will have space at the Frederick County Sheriff's Office's headquarters on Airport Drive in Frederick. Members of the team will participate in roll calls and ride in patrol cars with the deputies.
The mobile crisis team members have helped sheriff's deputies deescalate crisis situations, provided immediate assistance and followed up with information and referrals for people and their families, Gardner said.
"Law enforcement, by itself, does not always have all the resources that may be needed to best serve the people" experiencing a behavioral health crisis or substance misuse, Gardner said.
Research has shown that mobile crisis reduces potential costs to hospitals by preventing emergency department visits, said Scott Rose, the chief of rehabilitation and recovery services for Sheppard Pratt, during the press briefing.
Just one out of every four mobile crisis responses from the Sheppard Pratt staff required the person in crisis to go to the emergency department, resulting in a "huge saving of medical resources," Rose said.
And when someone in crisis did need to go to the emergency department, the mobile crisis staff were able to call ahead to the hospital and provide information from their own clinical assessments, Rose said.
Mobile crisis saves law enforcement resources, too, Rose said. It allows police officers to respond to other calls for service.
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said during the press briefing that he and his deputies have "seen firsthand how this interaction between mobile crisis and the people who are at risk" can work.
"It saved lives," Jenkins said.
Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: