Mental Health Matters
In the midst of both a public health crisis and an economic crisis, our state is failing to provide the access, quality and continuity of care that patients desperately need.
We are nowhere close to satisfying demand for psychiatrists, therapists and clinical social workers, which means people who call for help are often forced to wait weeks, even months, to get through the door. When we can get patients in for sessions, we don’t have nearly enough licensed prescribers to provide people with life-saving medicine.
It’s clear Marylanders need mental health care now more than ever.
Prioritizing Marylanders’ Mental Health
Lives are at stake, and we are failing at every step of the way. The Gansler Administration will make this a defining priority, beginning with a generational investment in mental health treatment services.
The Gansler administration 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Subsidize the difference between the in-network and out-of-network rates for up to one year 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ensure that Maryland’s prison population is provided with continuity of mental health care during their period of incarceration, as a public health and community safety imperative.
- 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
- Encourage Maryland’s elementary schools to set aside 10 minutes at the beginning of each school day for the practice of mindfulness through the use of both financial incentives and instructional resources.
- 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.