ROCKVILLE, Md. — Former Attorney General Doug Gansler, a Democrat running for governor on his proven record of taking bold action to deliver real results, today rolled out his plan to address Maryland’s silent crisis surrounding mental health.
“Mental Health Matters will address Maryland’s dire need for quality, affordable mental health care across our state,” said Gansler. “We are still in the throes of both an economic and public health crisis; people are grieving loved ones and their lives as they once knew them. Meanwhile, costs keep rising and it keeps getting harder to save for future dreams. The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of so many, yet Maryland is failing every step of the way when it comes to satisfying the demand for mental health care. Too many people who call for help are sometimes forced to wait weeks or even months to get through the door. That’s why the Gansler administration will make a generational investment in mental health care, with a particular focus on increasing the number of providers through the construction of 10 regional behavioral health care centers throughout the state.”
Mental Health Matters
This is the more dire, unmet health care need in our country and in our state today, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
- As anyone who has attempted to navigate the process can tell you, we are currently failing, at every step along the way, to provide the access, quality and continuity of care that patients desperately need.
- We are still in both a public health crisis and an economic crisis. More than 11,000 Maryland families have lost a loved one to COVID, costs keep rising and the new Omicron variant is adding even more uncertainty to our path forward. The CDC has even added mood disorders to conditions that create a heightened risk for COVID. Many Marylanders need mental health care now more than ever before.
- We are nowhere close as a state to satisfying demand for psychiatrists, therapists and clinical social workers. Which means that people who call for help are literally forced to wait weeks, and even months, to get through the door.
- And even when we can get patients in for sessions, we don’t have nearly enough licensed prescribers to provide people with life-saving medicine.
- Finally, attrition and mobility rates within the provider community are so high that vulnerable patients are routinely shuffled between service providers – which can be an emotionally draining and intimidating experience that causes many to forego further treatment.
- The challenge is even more dire when one stops to consider the effect this is having on children – many of whom are dealing with homelessness, food insecurity, abuse and substance addiction. The magnitude of the crisis is reflected in the fact that between 2017 and 2018, suicides between the ages of 10-24 increased by 60 percent.
Lives are at stake, and we are failing at every step of the way. I am going to make this a defining priority of my Administration, beginning with a generational investment in mental health treatment services.
- We will take advantage of our multi-billion surplus and our state’s AAA credit rating to finance, build and operate 10 new regional behavioral centers across the State of Maryland, each to be staffed with psychiatrists, social workers and therapists, to be funded by a combination of federal and state dollars.
- We will work with our federal and county partners to ensure that all 1,428 public schools in the State of Maryland have a certified and licensed mental health care professional per 250 students on staff, and on site, to help students, faculty and staff experiencing trauma.
- We will ensure that all state, county and municipal police departments have immediate access to mental health professionals with specific expertise in conflict resolution, substance addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- We will require all law enforcement agencies to institute a program similar to Baltimore’s that diverts 911 calls related to a mental health crisis to mental health professionals, with law enforcement to only be used as back-up. We will also require sworn officers within all Maryland state law enforcement agencies to undergo de-escalation training every two years.
- We will provide cost-free higher education and continuing education to any psychiatrist, therapist or social worker who pledges to practice in the State of Maryland for 10 years or within an underserved region for at least five years.
- In those instances where a patient is at risk of losing a provider relationship because that provider moves outside of the patient’s insurance network, the State will subsidize, for up to one year, the difference between the in-network and out-of-network rates.
- We will provide direct grants to Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City, awarded on a population-based formula, to ensure that there is an adequate number of providers with specific experience in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to children who are diagnosed with autism.
- We will establish the first permanent, standing Maryland Autism Commission. This Commission will be chaired by the Secretary of Health and will convene regularly in the Governor’s Reception Room in Annapolis. This Commission will serve as a platform for review of ongoing medical and scientific advancements in the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder, education of state and local policymakers about the magnitude of the challenge, and discussion of potential legislative and programmatic initiatives that would improve the quality of care for all diagnosed Marylanders.
- As a public health and community safety imperative, we will ensure that Maryland’s prison population is provided with continuity of mental health care during their period of incarceration.
- We will establish a Cabinet-level, Interagency Department of Suicide Prevention, which will coordinate staff and informational resources from agencies throughout State Government, including:
- Department of Health
- State Department of Education
- Governor’s Office for Children
- Department of Human Services
- Department of Juvenile Services
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
- Maryland Higher Education Commission
- The University System of Maryland
- We will encourage, through the use of both financial incentives and instructional resources, Maryland’s elementary schools to set aside 10 minutes at the beginning of each school day for the practice of mindfulness.
- We will require all taxpayer-funded colleges and universities to establish peer support programs for students living with mental health conditions on campus, to identify strategies to improve the access and quality of mental health care services for the student population, and adopt specific policies to immediately engage students who are in need of mental health services.
- Establish and maintain an in-person or remote, trauma-informed mental health care services 24 hours a day, and seven days a week for first responders.
- Establish a permanent, revolving fund dedicated to improving the mental health care infrastructure available to all first responders. Among other priorities, this fund would be used to subsidize the balance between in-network and out-of-network provider costs for state and local first responders.
- Require that all aspiring police, fire and emergency services providers receive a minimum amount of mental health awareness education as part of their mandatory training process, and that the required number of hours be completed prior to certification.
- Establish a mobile crisis unit, specifically constructed to assess the unique circumstances and needs of first responders, that will be deployed, as needed, to state and local agencies in response to traumatic occurrences.
- Establish a new check-off on the Maryland state tax return exclusively for mental health care. Designated as the Mental Health Care Fund, it will be used to subsidize the expansion of state-funded mental health care in the State, such as a free intake assessment for any Marylander who requests one.