Federal investment to help City of Baltimore’s efforts to dispatch behavioral health professionals on mental health crisis calls

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BALTIMORE — A federal investment aimed at reducing violence will help Baltimore expand its 911 diversion program, which sends behavioral health professionals to mental health crisis calls instead of the police.

Federal and city officials announced Friday that nearly $8 million in federal dollars will go to public safety programs, including $2 million to the diversion program.

“For a long time, we asked our police officers to do way too much,” said Adrienne Breidenstine, of Behavioral Health System Baltimore. “Recognizing that we need to respond with healthcare workers instead of handcuffs is something the city is really focused on.”

Behavioral Health System Baltimore is an organization that partners with the city by sending teams of medical professionals to respond to 911 calls when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.

Breidenstine said the money will be used to help bolster the program’s 24/7 helpline staff.

The organization is also looking to use the money to add more mobile crisis teams.

“That’s the goal is that we need more round-the-clock crews to respond to the need, especially as we see more calls that come in to 911 being diverted to the helpline of the city, which will only show that we need more people to answer the phone and probably more crews going into the community to answer,” Breidenstine said.

It’s the kind of response that will help free up the police to deal with violent crime, while connecting a professional to a person in crisis.

“We are very happy to see this investment and we are truly grateful for the city’s support,” Breidenstine said.

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