Note: This letter originally appeared as an e-mail sent to the Hopkins community on October 7, 2022.
Dear Johns Hopkins Community:
We are pleased to share an exciting update on the Johns Hopkins University Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team. Following a successful first-year pilot on the Homewood campus, we are moving forward with plans to expand the program this month to our Peabody campus and are working with community members and experts in behavioral health for our East Baltimore expansion in 2023.
We are also introducing a new Access Line, reached by calling 410-516-WELL (9355), that connects directly to BHCST clinicians 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The BHCST pairs licensed mental health providers who have crisis response expertise with specially trained public safety personnel to respond to people experiencing behavioral health crises, with coverage 24/7, 365 days a year. Under this co-responder model, a clinician and a public safety officer travel together to calls with a behavioral health component, such as requests to check on someone’s well-being or reports of someone with suicidal ideation. Public safety’s role is to ensure the safety of the environment while the clinician engages with the person in distress. The team serves Johns Hopkins students, faculty, staff, and our neighbors on and around our Baltimore campuses.
In addition to providing immediate assistance to those who need it, the BHCST links JHU students, faculty, and staff in crisis to ongoing support services in the days and weeks following a mobile crisis response. The team also partners with Baltimore Crisis Response, Inc. (BCRI), to provide quality mental health crisis assistance for our Baltimore neighbors.
Prior to launching the BHCST, the university assessed the volume and type of calls coming in to public safety and found that approximately one third of those calls pertained to behavioral health issues. That data informed the decision to develop the BHCST, in consultation with mental health experts, with the hope of more effectively and appropriately managing calls related to behavioral health crises by deploying behavioral health clinicians in person alongside public safety personnel.
In fall 2021, JHU launched the BHCST on and around the Homewood campus. Initially, clinicians served in designated shifts, but once fully staffed, in March 2022, they began covering all shifts on and around the Homewood campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since the program launch—from Oct. 27, 2021, through Sept. 29, 2022—the BHCST has responded to 85 calls to assist Johns Hopkins students and three calls to assist community members.
During calls in its first year, the BHCST clinicians have responded in person, conducted safety assessments, and provided compassionate listening, validation, and de-escalation. They also have helped those in distress plan next steps for receiving support and follow-up services.
The BHCST is part of Johns Hopkins’ multifaceted approach to ensuring the safety and well-being of the Hopkins community, including developing new resources to meet the community’s needs. In developing the team, JHU consulted with behavioral health experts and established an Advisory Committee comprising faculty and staff, students, and neighborhood leaders.
The BHCST may also be accessed by calling public safety, as has been the practice since the launch of the team.