988 Debuts; Is It Enough?

July 25, 2022

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have risen 35% since 1999. People in a mental health crisis often rely on 911 for aid.

Calls to 911 often result in EMS and police bringing people to your EDs. Often you’ll treat the patients for a medical issue—like dehydration or a broken leg—and they’re ready to go home or to intermediate care. For too many there’s nowhere to send them, especially the young, to ensure they have schooling, socialization, family support, and other help needed to heal.

Just last month there were an average of 51 youths each week overstaying in Maryland hospitals. Most needed some mental health support.

Last week the national 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline debuted. The line gives those with behavioral health and substance abuse issues an alternative to 911. In Maryland there are eight coordinating centers with counselors to connect callers to the right setting—whether it be a safe station, a crisis or mental health center, or urgent care. Though the hotline comes with $400 million nationwide in federal support to enhance mental health services and crisis centers, we know more needs to be done.

The Maryland Department of Health also is piloting a special 211-press-4 Care Coordination Line for hospitals. Now rolling out in Baltimore, this service allows hospital personnel to reach out directly to Behavioral Health Administration care coordinators. It should help find places for hard-to-place behavioral health patients. It will launch statewide in October.

MHA continues to push to build behavioral health capacity, coordination, and navigation throughout Maryland. We know mobile integrated health support is vital for the well-being of our communities, both to support patients and to open up beds for those having acute medical needs.

Bob Atlas
President & CEO

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