New behavioral health crisis resource meets ’real need’ on campus and in the community

Gilman clock tower

Gilman clock tower

The program, piloted at the Homewood campus during the 2021-22 academic year, will expand to the Peabody/Mount Vernon area in the fall

The Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team , which pairs behavioral health clinicians with specially trained public safety personnel to provide immediate in-person assistance to individuals experiencing a personal crisis, has seen promising early results and will expand its coverage to the Peabody/Mount Vernon area in the fall, university leaders said today.

The team, created in response to feedback from the JHU community and its neighbors and launched on a limited basis at the Homewood campus last fall, is part of broader, multi-faceted strategy to ensure the safety and well-being of the Hopkins community and develop new resources to meet its unique needs.

Currently, the team is dispatched via Public Safety as the initial response resource if a call for assistance is believed to have a behavioral health component, such as a request to check on someone’s well-being or a report of someone who is having an immediate mental health crisis, including serious thoughts of suicide. Through the university’s partnership with Baltimore Crisis Response Inc., community members in crisis who are unaffiliated with the university receive immediate follow-up care and support and are also connected with resources.

The program was expanded in March to provide 24-7 coverage at the university’s Homewood campus. In a message sent to the university community today, Kevin Shollenberger , vice provost for student health and well-being, and Branville Bard Jr. , vice president for public safety at Johns Hopkins, said that the BHCST has responded to 44 calls on and around the Homewood campus since October.

"During these calls, the support team’s clinicians respond in person and have conducted safety assessments and provided compassionate listening, validation, and de-escalation," Shollenberger and Bard wrote. "They also have helped those in distress plan their next steps for receiving support and follow-up services."

In the coming months, the BHCST plans to establish a dedicated phone number for individuals to reach the team directly in addition to the option of calling public safety. University leadership will continue to engage with members of both the Hopkins community and neighboring communities as well as with the BHCST advisory committee , made up of students, faculty, staff, and neighbors. During the next few months, there will be opportunities to provide feedback and to meet with the team and learn more about its work.

"There is a real need for this service in the community," said Tehma Smith Wilson, who represents the East Baltimore community on the advisory committee and is CEO of the Baltimore nonprofit The Door. "I hope the team continues to expand because people in the community don’t know who to call and may reach out to police resources who don’t have that training. Trained mental health practitioners can be helpful even at a level before it reaches a crisis."

Added Garrett Patrick, a JHU medical student and member of the advisory committee: "From the data we’ve seen so far, it seems like the team has been serving a significant unmet need, exactly as anticipated. My hope is that the team will be a great leap forward in the overall health and safety apparatus for the university by giving greater flexibility for addressing situations beyond just police. Having a strong focus on providing the right type of intervention can make a major difference for individuals in crisis."

Michael McGill Jr., a JHU graduate and member of the advisory committee, agreed.

"You don’t have to be penalized or criminalized for needing mental health support," he said. "The goal is for everyone to be safe. There’s no shame, no blame, and no guilt for needing help."

For regular updates and more information about the BHCST and its pilot program, please visit the or the. Individuals are encouraged to share their input and questions via email at bhresponse@jhu.edu .

Other options to support the mental health of students, faculty and staff can be found on the or through the employee mySupport program.

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