Note: This letter originally appeared as an email sent to the Hopkins community on November 9, 2021.
Dear Johns Hopkins Community:
In May, we announced our commitment to providing behavioral health crisis services to our campus and broader community through the creation of the Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team (BHCST)—a mobile co-responder program, pairing mental health professionals with specially trained public safety personnel to respond to behavioral health–related crises.
Today, we are excited to announce the official launch of the BHCST program, which began serving the Homewood campus this fall on a pilot basis and will gradually expand to a 24/7 service that covers our other Baltimore campuses.
In this first phase, our new team of experienced, compassionate crisis professionals will work in designated shifts alongside specially trained public safety officers to conduct field assessments, triage and de-escalate behavioral health–related calls, and coordinate follow-up case management, among other services. Owing to a nationwide shortage of behavioral health providers, we are still recruiting additional highly qualified clinicians and hope to cover as many incidents as possible, up to 24/7 coverage over time. In the interim and on an ongoing basis, clinical backup will continue to be provided, at all times of the day, for phone assessments, triage, and response.
Our new mental health professionals come to the university with strong backgrounds in crisis counseling and de-escalation, and experience with mobile crisis response. Within their first month, they underwent an extensive orientation, which included diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings; introductions to JHU programs; and meetings with organizations representing JHU’s neighbors. The clinicians also participated in collaborative training—alongside their public safety counterparts—which included a trauma-to-trust workshop that explored the ways in which trauma presents in their work and how to use those experiences to create mutual trust within the communities they serve. Separately, our public safety officers have also participated in trainings focused on LGBT+-informed language and pronouns, crisis de-escalation, countering implicit bias, and response adaptations for providing care to trauma victims, those who are unhoused, and those with disabilities. Further workshops are being planned.
During the next phase of this pilot, we plan to introduce a dedicated phone number where individuals can reach the BHCST directly. For regular updates and more information about the BHCST and our pilot program, please visit our public safety website or our student well-being website.
Today’s announcement is a major milestone in the power of community to play an active role in redesigning what public safety combined with behavioral health support looks like and to leverage university resources to realize our collective vision. As we work to provide essential behavioral health crisis services at Johns Hopkins, it is our utmost hope that this new approach will meet the moment on our campus and nationwide in prioritizing behavioral health care access for all.
Vice President for Public Safety
Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being
Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs