Responding to Those in Crisis

illustration of pencil erasing brain fog

In August, the Johns Hopkins Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team (BHCST), which pairs behavioral health clinicians with public safety officers to respond to those in crisis, expanded to the university’s East Baltimore campus with a pilot phase.

The BHCST operates a 24/7 access line. Those experiencing or witnessing a behavioral health crisis can call 410-516-WELL (9355) to speak with a licensed crisis support clinician. Once on the line, the clinician will discuss the situation with the caller and, if necessary, will send a clinician-led co-response team to their location.

“For many, it can be a lifesaving program,” says Jennifer Howes, the university’s chief mental health director for student health and well-being. “The impact of each one of those mobile responses can change the trajectory of someone’s experience and get them into care much more quickly.”

The support team was launched as a pilot in 2021 to address mental health needs on the Homewood campus. Since then, the program has grown in both size and reach, expanding first to the Peabody campus in 2022 and now to East Baltimore, where the pilot phase — which will run through the end of 2023 — operates from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

All clinicians are licensed mental health professionals with backgrounds in de-escalation and crisis counseling. The public safety officers they are paired with receive trauma-informed training to ensure that the in-person crisis responses are safe and private for all parties involved.

“I see it as the evolution of what public safety and law enforcement will be,” says Jarron Jackson, assistant vice president for public safety. “Folks that before thought that they had to wait for this extreme incident before they could call public safety can now call earlier and get the help that they need.” Since its inception, the BHCST has received more than 250 calls for crisis support.