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Mental-health services among priorities for Washington County lobbying coalition
The Herald-Mail - 12/27/2017
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 most recent data available on 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.
Other coalition initiatives
Other initiatives for the Washington County Community Coalition this state legislative session include:
Continue funding to complete the urban improvement project for downtown Hagerstown and protect pledged funds.
Ask the state to identify funds to help build phase two of widening Interstate 81. That phase would widen 3.5 miles from Williamsport to Interstate 70. Also, ask the state to create a 10-year plan to finish widening I-81 to the Pennsylvania state line. The latest estimate for phases two through four is $291 million.
Ask the state for design and construction funds to improve the Interstate 70/Md. 65 interchange to be programmed into future state transportation plans.
The Town of Williamsport will ask for funds to help with construction costs for the National Park Service headquarters/visitors center for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park headquarters to move to Williamsport. Funding to buy the land has been secured.
Boonsboro might pursue a bond bill to complete a visitors center and National Road Museum.
Promote the county as an area for economic prosperity and innovation through meetings with legislators and a reception.
Support funding request for establishing Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park on East Baltimore Street across from Congregation B'nai Abraham in Hagerstown.
The coalition removed establishing a city revitalization zone from the list for this year.
Recent attempts to establish that were unsuccessful, and a major advocate, Brett Wilson, recently resigned as a state delegate after he was appointed to a circuit judge position.
An effort to support that initiative, perhaps in a different form, is expected to be picked up in a year, said Jim Kercheval, executive director of the Greater Hagerstown Committee.
City revitalization zones would allow cities and towns that meet certain criteria to create Community Revitalization and Improvement Zones, where the potential tax income from new development could be used as collateral to finance new projects.