JHU to expand successful behavioral health public safety initiative

| May 20, 2022
Posted in:

Note: this letter originally appeared as an email sent to the Hopkins community on May 20, 2022.

Dear Johns Hopkins Community:

We are excited to announce plans to expand the Johns Hopkins Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team (BHCST)—an innovative, evidence-based initiative that pairs behavioral health clinicians with specially trained public safety personnel to provide immediate in-person assistance to individuals experiencing a personal crisis. This significant university investment in the BHCST expansion supports our broader, multifaceted strategy to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our community and develop new resources to meet its unique needs.

Launched on a limited basis on the Homewood campus last fall, the program is now fully staffed with experienced, compassionate professionals who are able to respond to calls 24/7. In the coming months we will make several enhancements to the program, including:

  • A dedicated phone number for individuals to directly contact team members;
  • An expansion to the Peabody campus in Mount Vernon; and
  • Community meetings to meet team members, explore lessons learned, and discuss plans for further expansion to our East Baltimore campus.

Since October 2021, teams have been dispatched as first responders to all calls for assistance that include behavioral or mental health components—from requests to check on the well-being of individuals to reports of people contemplating suicide or self-harm. During these calls, the support teams’ clinicians respond in person and have conducted safety assessments and provided compassionate listening, validation, and de-escalation. They also have helped those in distress plan their next steps for receiving support and follow-up services. Through a partnership with Baltimore Crisis Response Inc., the university’s crisis support team also helps community members who are not affiliated with Johns Hopkins by connecting them with appropriate resources for follow-up care and support.

The BHCST was developed in direct response to feedback from our community. At each stage of the implementation process, we have been guided both by expert advice into best practices and by our dedicated advisory committee, composed of students, faculty, staff, and neighbors. Their continued input will be crucial as we refine and expand the initiative.

This effort is particularly important now, as the prevalence of mental illness and substance use continues to increase, in some part owing to the COVID pandemic. For more information about behavioral health resources on campus, you can visit the Student Health and Well-Being website. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the BHCST by calling Public Safety at 667-208-1200.

For regular updates and more information about the BHCST and our pilot program, please visit the public safety website or the student well-being website. Individuals are encouraged to share their input and questions via email at [email protected].

Kevin Shollenberger
Vice Provost for Student Health & Well-Being

Branville Bard Jr.
Vice President for Public Safety