BALTIMORE — A federal investment aimed to reduce violence will help Baltimore expand its 911 diversion program, which sends behavior health professionals to mental health crisis calls instead of police.
Federal and city officials announced on Friday nearly $8 million of federal dollars will go to public safety programs with $2 million going towards the diversion program.
“For a long time, we have been asking our police officers to do way too much,” said Adrienne Breidenstine, who is with Behavioral Health System Baltimore. “Recognizing that we need to respond with healthcare workers instead of handcuffs is something the city is really focused.”
Behavioral Health System Baltimore is an organization that partners with the city by sending teams of healthcare professionals to respond 911 calls where someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.
Breidenstine said the money will be used to help beef up staffing of the program’s 24/7 helpline.
The organization is also looking to use the money to add more mobile crisis teams.
“That’s the goal is that we need get more teams around the clock to support the need especially as we see more calls that are coming to 911 being diverted to the city’s helpline that’s only going to show that we need more people answering the phone’s and likely more teams going out to the community to respond," Breidenstine said.
It’s the kind of response that will help free up police to deal with violent crime, while connecting a professional to someone experiencing a crisis.
“We’re very pleased to see this investment and we’re really grateful for the city’s support,” Breidenstine said.