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Mental-health services among priorities for Washington County lobbying coalition

The Herald-Mail - 12/19/2017

Mental-health crisis services are on the agenda for the Washington County Community Coalition for the Maryland General Assembly session that begins Jan. 10.

Adding a second person to a mobile-crisis team for mental health and having a 24/7 mental-health walk-in clinic are on the Washington County Mental Health Authority's wish list, Director Rick Rock said in a telephone interview.

The wish list is in response to a request from state lawmakers, who decided during the 2017 legislative session that they wanted a report on the climate for crisis services in the counties, including what they had and needed, Rock said.

A second person for the crisis team would cost around $56,000. Rock declined to say how much the clinic cost because the figure could come down if a new building is not needed.

Rock said he is not actually asking for funding for those initiatives, but is being proactive in case the state gets funding for such requests.

The authority has a licensed mental-health professional through Turning Point of Washington County who has ridden with police and responded to emergency-dispatch calls involving people experiencing a mental-health crisis, Rock said. She can initiate the emergency-petition process to get someone in crisis to an evaluation center to be considered for involuntary hospitalization.

The state and local authority's objective is to help police and provide an alternative place to the hospital emergency department for police to take people having a mental-health crisis, Rock said.

A clinic would do just that.

Washington County's rate of emergency department visits related to mental-health conditions was 5,785.3 per 100,000 people in 2014, according to the Maryland Department of Health's website. That ranks seventh in the state and exceeds the 2017 state goal of 3,152.6 per 100,000.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners agreed Dec. 12 to participate again in the lobbying coalition for local initiatives.

The commissioners approved a request for $5,000, and the county also will provide in-kind services.

The commissioners also recently agreed to hire well-known lobbyist Bruce Bereano again for $10,000 to represent the county's interests in Annapolis for the year.

The City of Hagerstown recently approved contributing $5,000 to the community lobbying coalition, Greater Hagerstown Committee Executive Director Jim Kercheval said in an email to Herald-Mail Media. So far, Washington County Public Schools is providing in-kind services. It provided $5,000 last year.

Other contributors are the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, with $3,000; Washington County Chamber of Commerce, with $2,000; Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, with $3,000; Friends of the Library, with $5,000; Town of Williamsport, with $1,000; and Greater Hagerstown, in-kind, according to a presentation document to the commissioners.


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