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Pittman vows to help Safe Stations He pledged to pay if grant funding for county's Crisis Response System lacking

Capital - 3/8/2020

Two state and federal funded grants that support the county's Crisis Response System, an organization tasked with aiding residents experiencing mental health crises, are slated to expire this year.

As the organization looks for more grant-funding to cover the gaps, County Executive Steuart Pittman pledges to cover the costs in the budget, no matter what.

"I have to promise this," Pittman said. "It's that important."

The Crisis Response System, also known as the "Community Warmline," is a service that's part of the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency. Residents having a mental health crisis or substance use disorder emergency can call the community line and receive assistance from trained crisis professionals or police and fire officials.

The organization operates on several federal, state and county grants. The Crisis Response System has received two payments of $250,000 from the state Community Health Resource Commission since 2017 to create a pilot "Safe Station" program in response to the country's opioid epidemic. Since then, the program has become a model for counties across the state and "successful beyond anyone's wildest imagination," said Adrienne Mickler, executive director of Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency.

Residents struggling with substance use disorders who want to start treatment can call the "community warmline" or go to the nearest fire station or police state designated as a "Safe Station." Once there, a team of crisis responders will meet the resident and work on a treatment plan with them.

Around 58% of people who use this service are successfully connected to a treatment provider, Mickler said. The commission's grant funds about 25% of the program and is set to expire in April.

The crisis team also operates on a larger, five-year federal grant used to enhance its response and stabilization system for children and youth in serious emotional duress. The county received $696,000 from the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration in the last fiscal year. Through the program, the team answers crisis calls from school systems.

This was a one-time grant that was expected to expire and attempts to acquire grant money and fill the gap were not fruitful. There is one grant request outstanding that would cover half of this lost funding, Mickler said, and feedback on that proposal has been positive.

As a nonprofit organization, working to secure grant money is commonplace. The organization was aware the grants expire this year and has been actively looking for another funding source, Mickler said.

If they fail to find it, the county will make the money available by creating revenue or cutting funds somewhere else, Pittman said.

"Those crisis response teams are one of the most important things the county does at this point," Pittman said. "There's no way we're going to lay people off or end those programs."

The Safe Station program is just one of many services the organization provides for residents in need. Its jail diversion program offers mental health services and implements a plan of care for people pending release from jail.

The recidivism rate for individuals who have gone through the program is less than the general population, Mickler said.

"From a systems perspective it actually saves money to the community," Mickler said. "And, to a large extent, I think the community has come to rely on it."

 
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