Working to improve access to critically needed care, Baltimore City has launched a new, single phone number for Baltimore City residents to use for substance use and mental health crisis calls, services and treatment, and information.
The Crisis, Information & Referral Line, 410-433-5175, will be answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, giving people in need of help the opportunity to talk to a trained professional at any time. Creating such a resource is a key recommendation in the city’s recently released report of the Mayor’s Heroin Treatment and Prevention Task Force.
“Over and over again, we have heard that our residents are looking for a reliable, easy-to-use, 24/7 resource for any and all mental health and addiction concern,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “Our new Crisis, Information & Referral line allows us to deliver life-saving crisis treatment and connect patients and their families to obtain the treatment they need.”
The new line is a collaboration between The Baltimore City Health Department and three Baltimore nonprofit organizations: Behavioral Health System Baltimore (BHSB), HealthCare Access Maryland (HCAM), and Baltimore Crisis Response, Inc. (BCRI).
“The implementation of the Crisis, Information and Referral line is a pivotal point for the public behavioral health system in Baltimore,” said Crista Taylor, acting interim CEO for BHSB. “For the first time we have a 24/7 number for people to talk with a live person trained in responding to crises about accessing urgently needed substance use and mental health services.”
Previously, BCRI and HCAM provided information and intervention to city residents through two distinct hotlines.
BCRI has a long history of providing crisis intervention— since 1992, it trained crisis counselors have managed 30,000 calls annually, providing supportive counseling, dispatching emergency assistance and linking callers with more intensive BCRI and community services.
“BCRI is pleased to be part of this effort to expand access to behavioral health services for Baltimore citizens in urgent need,” said Edgar Wiggins, executive director of BCRI. “This collaboration means no call for help goes unanswered.”
Since 2009, HCAM’s Behavioral Health Information and Referral Line has been staffed by Certified Addiction Counselors and Mental Health Specialists who screen callers for substance use disorders and secure real-time appointments and follow-up for mental health and substance use treatment programs, provide information for support services as well as links to health insurance enrollment. HCAM’s counselors and specialists handle over 3,500 calls a year.
“Every year, thousands of Baltimore residents face personal crises,” said Kathleen Westcoat, HCAM’s president and CEO. “Now, with one phone call, they’re able to talk with someone who can provide important information and connect them with the help they need.”
Funding for the Crisis, Information & Referral Line comes from BHSB as well as from federal funds provided for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network.