Governor Moore and US health secretary discuss federal investments in youth mental health on Baltimore panel – Baltimore Sun
An increase in calls and texts to the 988 crisis line and local efforts to support youth struggling with mental health were the focus of a panel discussion Friday morning in Baltimore between the Maryland governor Wes Moore, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, and mental health service providers and advocates.
Since the summer launch of the Suicide and Crisis Helpline, which strips down the old phone number 1-800-273-TALK to three easier-to-remember digits, the number of people contacting the line has increased substantially, said Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, HHS assistant secretary for mental health and substance use.
Comparing last month with December 2021, 172,000 more contacts were made to the crisis line across the country, Delphin-Rittmon said. Chat and text rates also increased, with chats up by approximately 263% and texts up by 1,445%.
“It’s an existential moment, but where we meet that moment by coming together and working together to address the needs of people who are struggling,” he said.
Mariana Izraelson, executive director of Columbia-based Grassroots Crisis Intervention, also spoke about the increase in calls, texts and chats the crisis line has received since its launch in July.
The center is one of eight in Maryland that answers 988 calls, while also offering support nationwide. Although the first month was slow, calls, texts and chats increased in August and have continued in high volume ever since, he said.
The option to call or chat on the crisis line has been especially popular among young people, Izraelson said. The center responds to about 3,000 text messages and chats per month, with many arriving between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.
“We have never seen the numbers that we are seeing today, and we are responding to the need in our community,” he said.
Becerra praised Maryland for being one of the few states in the country to create a permanent funding stream for the crisis line. Last year, the state established a trust fund for 988, which state lawmakers provided $5 million for the first year of the program and another $5.5 million for the second year.
He also tried to alleviate concerns he has heard from young people, especially young men, that using the hotline will lead to them being transferred to the police.
“The way I describe it is 988,” he said. “It’s only 911 when you’ve signaled that you’re about to end your life, or we need someone to rush to you, to provide the services to keep you with us.”
In Moore’s first budget proposal, which he released last week, the week-old governor calls for $428 million to address substance use disorders, an increase from 39% of the funding this issue received last year, he said. .
He also highlighted the proposed $500 million boost to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund included in his budget, as well as $8.8 billion for public education and $1.2 billion for school construction.
Moore joined Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller in Friday’s discussion.
“I can tell you that the governor and I are going to make this a priority in our administration,” Miller told attendees, which included youth advocates Sage Hughes and Sam Jesner. “Let them be seen, heard, and we will provide them with whatever it is they need to be authentic in this world.”
The discussion comes as Maryland, and the nation as a whole, grapples with a youth mental health crisis that existed before the coronavirus pandemic but has only gotten worse since.
According to the findings of the Annie E. Casey Foundation Children’s Count Data Book 2022About 13% of children ages 3 to 17 reported experiencing anxiety or depression in 2020, an increase of about 3.5 percentage points since 2016.
Research has shown that the mental health of people of color It has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. And although there has long been a shortage of mental health workersthat scarcity is particularly pronounced among black and brown practitioners.
Andrea Brown, executive director of the Black Mental Health Association, who participated in Friday’s roundtable, shared how the Baltimore-based nonprofit is working to diversify the field of mental health through its Healing Youth Alliance program. .
In the program, black youth are trained to become ambassadors for mental health, allowing them to take the lessons they learn about trauma, stigma and healing back to their schools and peer groups. The program also encourages young people to consider pursuing a career in mental health.
“It’s significant, when we’re talking about having a conversation, and my therapist may not be like me,” she said. “If we’re talking about breaking generational stigma, then we need to make sure people feel comfortable talking about their mental health.”