Note: This letter originally appeared as an email sent to the Hopkins community on May 18, 2021.
Dear Johns Hopkins Community:
Reimagining public safety—a commitment we made to you nearly a year ago—has required ongoing reflection, exploration of best practices, and thoughtful, productive dialogue with our students, neighbors, faculty, and staff. Today, in keeping with that commitment, we are announcing a major new initiative, the Johns Hopkins University Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team (JHU BHCST), which is part and parcel of our collective effort to integrate public health best practices into our community safety response.
Under our current structure, Campus Safety and Security officers are often the first and sole in-person responders to behavioral health emergencies within our university community. In fact, since 2019, approximately 35 percent of the calls dispatched through the Office of Campus Safety and Security were related to behavioral health concerns.
We therefore undertook an in-depth analysis of contemporary best practices and an assessment of our more traditional, security-based responses and interventions. We also considered carefully the recommendations outlined in the 2018 report of the JHU Task Force on Student Health and Well-Being. In doing so, it became clear that many of the calls being addressed by Campus Safety and Security could be more effectively and appropriately handled by behavioral health clinicians.
Put simply, it was time for a new approach.
With the guidance of Dr. Ronald Means, a locally and nationally recognized child/adolescent, adult, and forensic psychiatrist and expert consultant in the field of behavioral health crisis services, and an Advisory Committee composed of faculty, staff, students, and neighborhood leaders, we are developing the JHU BHCST as a mobile co-responder program—pairing behavioral health clinicians with specially trained security personnel on every shift, seven days a week, and calling upon these clinicians rather than security officers to serve as the lead responder where appropriate.
The BHCST will provide immediate assistance to those who need it and, just as importantly, link individuals in crisis to ongoing university support services in the days and weeks that follow. For community members in crisis who are not directly affiliated with JHU, that kind of careful follow-up and support will be facilitated by the BHCST but provided through Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. (BCRI), a well-established and highly respected community organization with significant experience helping individuals in crisis throughout our region.
Over the summer, we will be hiring and training BHCST professionals for this important work and building their partnership with Campus Safety and Security and BCRI. We plan to fully launch the new program on a pilot basis in fall 2021, first on and around Homewood and then expanding to our other campuses in Baltimore.
To date, university leaders and the BHCST advisory committee have held more than 15 listening sessions and engaged over 250 people representing more than 70 organizations. The dialogue and input from these conversations has been invaluable to us, and will continue. We hope you will join in sharing your input and questions via email at email@example.com or the program’s webpage, where regular updates also will be posted.
This is only one aspect of our deep and abiding commitment to our Baltimore campuses, community, and neighbors. We will continue to explore and support innovative strategies, including community partnerships, to improve the safety and well-being of all.
Ronald J. Daniels
Acting Vice President for Public Safety
Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being