Baltimore County to Further Improve Crisis Response System Based on Independent Assessment

By CSG Justice Center Staff

The Baltimore County, Maryland, county executive released a report today that provides recommendations for the county to better position its police-mental health collaboration (PMHC), the Baltimore County Crisis Response System (BCCRS), to provide an effective and comprehensive response that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and maximizes both public safety and health outcomes.

Baltimore County Report CoverThe report describes the CSG Justice Center’s independent assessment of the county’s law enforcement and behavioral health responses to people who have behavioral health needs. In partnership with the Baltimore County Police Department (BCPD), the Baltimore County Health Department, and the Affiliated Santé Group—a non-profit behavioral health crisis service provider—the CSG Justice Center reviewed the BCCRS for its effectiveness, comprehensiveness, and adherence to national best practices.

To conduct its assessment, the CSG Justice Center received data from a variety of county sources: staff conducted interviews with more than 50 people from BCCRS stakeholder organizations; observed dispatch operations and toured police training facilities; attended trainings; and reviewed materials, including written policies and procedures, workload and performance measurement records, and information on training courses. Following an initial audit of county resources and trainings, the CSG Justice Center then reviewed practices that impact people who have behavioral health needs in more depth, with a focus on program size and design, communication across crisis service providers and crisis call systems, and the county’s process for evaluating BCCRS’s performance.

As part of its assessment, the CSG Justice Center evaluated BCCRS’s effectiveness as a comprehensive PMHC in six main focus areas: (1) jurisdictional and law enforcement leadership; (2) protocols, policies, and procedures for identifying and responding to calls involving people who have behavioral health needs; (3) mental health and de-escalation training; (4) crisis stabilization and follow-up services; (5) data collection, analysis, and tracking; and (6) performance reviews and mechanisms to make improvements.

Based on findings from this assessment, the CSG Justice Center identified six overall recommendations to help Baltimore County further improve its practices in responding to people who have behavioral health needs.

Photo of Richard Cho

“In the scheme of things, what they have in place is fairly effective,” Dr. Richard Cho (right), director of the CSG Justice Center’s Behavioral Health Division, said to the Baltimore Sun. “What they need to do is plug in the holes.”

Following the report’s release, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has directed the police chief and health and human services director to respond to the recommendations within 90 days.

“Our police department and health officials remain committed to improving police responses to those with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders,” said Kamenetz. “This assessment is critical in strengthening our effectiveness, comprehensiveness, and adherence to national best practices.”

To read some of the media coverage, please see below.