BALTIMORE — A year ago, Baltimore City leaders announced a pilot program aimed at diverting certain behavioral health 911 calls from law enforcement to experienced mental health professionals.
So far, officials say it is working.
According to data collected over the past year, the 911 Diversion Behavioral Health Pilot has saved more than 300 hours of first responders time, meaning they’ve been freed up to respond to calls they are properly equipped to handle.
More from Tenea Reddick, 911 Director, Baltimore City Fire Department when asked about co-locating a behavioral health clinician in the 9-1-1 call center...@WMAR2News— Dave Detling (@WMARDave) July 1, 2022
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That means trained professionals and crisis teams are fielding behavioral calls to 911.
In its last major update Baltimore’s 911 Diversion Behavioral Health Pilot Program was set to get $2 million in federal aid.
A year into the program, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said the program is going strong. “As for the allocation of that federal money, the pilot program will expand with plans to create youth-focused mobile crisis teams for callers 18 and under,” Mayor Scott said.
“More than ever, children and youths in our community are feeling distressed and disconnected,” said Crista Taylor, of Behavioral Health System Baltimore.
Money will also go toward co-locating a behavioral health technician in the 911 call center to support call takers in de-escalating crises and conducting screening to determine the most appropriate means of response.
“We have to make sure they are trained,” said Tenea Reddick, 911 Director of Baltimore City Fire Department. “They have to partner not only with the fire department but as well as the police department and everything else to see what fits the needs.”
As for the data driven pilot, since its inception, the Behavioral Health Diversion Program has connected 501 911 callers with the Baltimore Crisis Response Hotline. Additional indicators show: 26 callers declined to speak to HCRI; 30 diversions were resolved through the hotline; and mobile crisis teams were sent out 47 times.
“I think we can all agree that the connection of a caller need to an appropriate resource, specifically a licensed or trained mental health clinician actually benefits everyone involved,” said Dr. Ben Lawner.
Once these calls are taken, they’re not just passed off.
Health professionals with the program say they make follow-up calls and continue to monitor those individuals have called 911, if they leave a number.