Skip to main content

Press Releases - County Council

Council introduces special appropriation to expand Health and Human Services’ mobile crisis response capacity

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, June 23, 2020

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 23, 2020—Today the Montgomery County Council introduced a special appropriation of $592,202 to the fiscal year 2021 operating budget of the County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to expand mobile crisis response services.

“A significant percentage of service calls are related to mental health or substance abuse. However, the County’s Mobile Crisis Team does not have the capacity to cover many of those calls leaving police officers, who are not mental health professionals, to respond,” said Council Vice President Hucker, who chairs the Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee and serves on the Public Safety Committee. “This special appropriation will increase the County’s capacity to have mental health professional appropriately respond to these calls. I believe having more mental health professionals on the ground can reduce tragic events such as the police-involved shootings of Emmanuel Okutuga, Robert White, and Finan Berhe.”

“I am pleased to sponsor this special appropriation that will increase mobile crisis response capacity in Montgomery County,” said Council President Sidney Katz, who serves as chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee. “I worked to launch Mental Health Court in our District and Circuit Courts and I see this as a necessary step to decriminalize mental illness and move towards racial equity and social justice for all residents. I look forward to collaborating with the County Executive to develop a strategic, holistic crisis response system.”

“It is imperative that we increase the County’s capacity to respond to our mental health needs in an effective and appropriate manner,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro, who serves as chair of the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee. “That is why I requested that OLO review the data from our 911 and 311 calls to get a better picture of our needs. Know that when our residents tell us that they need to have trained professionals ready and able to assist, we are listening. This special appropriation is a step in the right direction; it is the first of what I hope will be many more actions taken to reshape our response to mental health needs in Montgomery County.”

“There is no question that mental health is critical to maintain one’s overall health,” said Councilmember Gabe Albornoz, chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee. “The expansion of the mobile crisis team will help bridge the gap within public health to help residents in need of these vital services. This is an important step forward to expand and build upon our foundation to best serve County residents. In the coming months, we will host a series of substantial and critical conversations to identify solutions that will move our County forward, not backwards.”

“Individuals who are experiencing homelessness need access to more licensed social workers and fewer police officers,” said Councilmember Evan Glass (At-Large), the Council’s Lead on Homelessness and Vulnerable Communities. “As we as a community begin a public conversation about how we rethink and restructure our police department, we must ensure that the solutions include greater investment in mental health and social workers. This is a good first step in that direction.”

DHHS operates the Crisis Center and staffs one Mobile Crisis Team, which is based in Rockville.  The Mobile Crisis Team is a two-person team that responds to calls made directly to the Crisis Center and when the police request their assistance as a part of a police response. Currently, the County only has funding for one Mobile Crisis Team. The Mobile Crisis Team can only respond to one call at any time.

While work on scaling up this response model is underway, the need has been identified for additional licensed social workers in DHHS to lead additional Mobile Crisis Teams. This special appropriation would fund six social worker positions, so that the hiring process may begin to expand these response teams. The funding includes bi-lingual pay and it is critical that these positions include those who can serve residents for whom English is not their primary language.  

Council Vice President Hucker described this appropriation as a necessary step to begin to create a more “robust system of care in which well-trained, trauma-informed, compassionate, unarmed professionals are the first point of contact for residents in psychological and emotional distress.”

As the County works toward a more effective crisis response and crisis care system during the Covid-19 public health crisis, focusing on expanding the resources and services available to residents who struggle with mental illness is a priorities. Response from a crisis response team can help deescalate a situation and immediately begin a health-based response to safely deal with the underlying cause of the crisis.

The Council staff report for this special appropriation can be viewed here

# # #

Release ID: 20-272
Media Contact: Dave Kunes 240-777-7960