2023 Impact Report

Building Community Connections

Behavioral Health System Baltimore (BHSB) plays a central role in expanding access to behavioral health care services in Baltimore City and supporting mental health and wellness across the Central Maryland region. As we mark our 10th anniversary, we are proud to share our highlights of 2023.

Mission

We work to develop, implement and align resources, programs and policies that support the behavioral health and wellness of individuals, families, and communities. 

Vision

We envision a city where people thrive in communities that promote and support behavioral health and wellness.

Values

Our work embodies these core values: Integrity, Equity, Innovation, Collaboration, Quality

Crista M. Taylor
President & CEO

Behavioral Health System Baltimore is excited to celebrate 10 years of service to the community.

Throughout those years, it’s been our partners, staff, providers, and community—all working together—who have helped us advance our work to support behavioral health and wellness. As we focus on the years ahead, we acknowledge the hard work needed to continue deconstructing systems of oppression within our behavioral health system and communities. But we will continue to pursue that goal and ensure that Baltimore is a city where people thrive in communities that promote and support emotional health and wellness.

Working with Community 

When traumatic events rocked communities in Baltimore, BHSB stepped in to help. With a renewed focus on community engagement, we supported two communities after violent incidents, spending time on the ground and providing valuable resources.

When Rosemont Towers, a West Baltimore home for older adults and people with disabilities, experienced a loss of a resident who died by suicide, BHSB’s community engagement team showed up in support. We provided Healing Us Together (HUT) training to residents and staff, an innovative program that supports collective health through community conversations that help people move from trauma to healing, distributed information about the 988 helpline, and trained residents and staff in the use of Narcan to stop overdoses. The team later offered Mental Health First Aid training and continues to be a trusted presence for Rosemont residents and staff. 

"For communities like Rosemont Towers, I’d say it’s important to keep that consistent partnership going. The team at BHSB has been instrumental in assisting the residents here. We lost a few, but we saved a lot."
Angela Burnett, Social Worker, Housing Authority of Baltimore City 

BHSB has been a faithful partner for Brooklyn after the South Baltimore neighborhood experienced a horrific mass shooting in July. Our team listened to the community discuss its needs and responded by offering HUT trainings and information about 988. We trained the Greater Baybrook Alliance, a local community organization, so it could continue to help the community recover and we connected the people of Brooklyn to a range of service providers.

"I promised the community that once the TV cameras left, we’d still be there.”
Gwen Brown, BHSB Community Engagement Coordinator

Providing Mental Health First Aid – for the Community

In 2023, we began offering Mental Health First Aid training to community groups, in partnership with the Mental Health Association of Maryland. The training gives individuals the skills to respond with care and genuine support to an individual with mental illness or substance use disorder. This grassroots approach is expanding the number of Marylanders equipped to support people with a mental illness or experiencing a crisis.

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Bishop Jerry Diggs discusses his collaboration with BHSB to offer mental health training to congregants.

Strengthening the Crisis System

Throughout the year, BHSB worked on many fronts to strengthen the state’s behavioral health crisis system and educate the public about the 988 helpline, which launched nationally in July 2022. As awareness grows, the number of people calling, texting, or chatting with 988 counselors is increasing rapidly.

In 2023, Central Maryland 988 providers answered 17,815 calls.

January – November 2023

BHSB led a powerful statewide effort – the Fund Maryland 988 Campaign – that successfully advocated to secure state funding to expand our crisis response system and ensure the 988 helpline operations have the resources they need. We applaud the General Assembly and the Moore administration for committing an additional $12 million in funding to our crisis response system.

In January 2023, we welcomed Governor Wes Moore, Lt. Governor Aruna Miller and U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to our office to talk about the need for a strong crisis response system for young people. 

A Network of Ambassadors to Share Information About 988

The Central Maryland Regional Crisis System’s network of 988 Ambassadors played a vital role in the community in 2023. These volunteers work in various ways to educate Marylanders about 988 and the services it offers people in need. They meet individually with people, share resources with organizations, and participate in community forums across Baltimore City and Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties.

Among them is Betsy D. Simon, a retired certified health education specialist, university administrator, and since 2009, full time community volunteer, who tirelessly works to spread the word about 988 across the Baltimore region. Through decades of community engagement, she has built networks of other committed volunteers and partner organizations, which she uses to share information about 988 – through churches, health forums, expos, one-on-one engagement, group meetings and weekly zoom sessions. “The 988 initiative in Central Maryland has provided a unique opportunity for us to re-educate the public and many health care providers about the need to treat mental health as any other public health problem while coupling the outreach message with immediate and much-needed resources,” Simon says. “I remind people that 988 doesn’t replace 911 but provides an alternative for certain non-life threatening situations with on-line responders who are equipped to know when 911 should be brought on the call. My message is to inform people to call 988 before things blow up and that 988 responders are available to listen, chat and assist before things get worse.”

Betsy D. Simon

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Dan Rabbitt, BHSB Policy Director, discusses our work to expand 988 awareness.

“It’s wonderful knowing that someone or something is out there for people to reach out to. It is a sad world. For seniors, with 988 they have someone to call. There’s always going to be an ear to listen. Knowing that 988 is out there for my community helps me a lot. I speak about it passionately.”
Michelle Rich, 988 Ambassador, Brooklyn Community

Expanding the Stabilization Center’s Reach

Partnering with a range of public and private organizations, BHSB coordinates the work of the Maryland Crisis Stabilization Center in West Baltimore, which plays a critical role in our crisis response system. The Center provides sobering services to people experiencing substance use crises, with an emphasis on harm reduction and offering services that align with a person’s treatment goals, including offers of substance use services. 

The number of individuals served by the Center climbed by 44 percent in fiscal year 2023, compared to a year earlier. And the Center is seeing a growing number of people walking in for care, a sign that members of the community recognize it as a vital resource and a better alternative to other health resources. 

Vincent Timmons was a client at the Crisis Stabilization Center and is now an outreach specialist there. “Peers and outreach workers that have been through it are very important in Baltimore. We know how to relate and talk to people; we know how to get around. It’s all about trust – once they trust you, they open up to you. When I started in 2021, nobody really knew what the Crisis Stabilization Center was, but I made flyers, t-shirts, knocked on doors and started bringing three to five people at a time. I wanted to let people know that they don’t have to go far and our doors are open 24/7. Now, I see the community is taking full advantage of it. My job in the community, my whole goal is to turn someone’s thinking around. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday.”

Supporting Our Youth

We are working with a range of partners – public agencies and private health care providers – to strengthen services and develop new strategies to help our young people lead healthy and productive lives.

Helping Young People During National Prevention Week 

In May, we marked National Prevention Week with a two-day event for more than 700 young people. Youth gathered to play arcade games and hang with friends, while learning how to prevent substance misuse and stay healthy.

Kids Off Drugs – A New Model to Educate Young People

Kids Off Drugs is a vibrant program developed by the Baltimore City Health Department, BHSB and Catalyst of Change to help youth and young adults avoid or reduce substance use. This high-energy, school-based initiative helps young people learn about the history of drugs in Baltimore and the cultural norms that lead to substance use. Based on Grammy Award-winning rapper J-Cole and his K.O.D. album, Kids On Drugs, the Kids Off Drugs program incorporates aspects of Hip-Hop and Baltimore culture — including language, arts, and history — as a social, cultural, and contextual framework for addressing substance use.

In 2023, we hosted events at three Baltimore schools and a community event at Morgan State University, reaching more than 400 students.

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Coordinating Care in a Range of Settings 

BHSB works behind the scenes in multiple settings to ensure young people and their families receive public services to help them lead healthy lives. A key goal is for partners to work across multiple agencies to coordinate care for the young people receiving services.

  • BHSB is working with partners to strengthen the Baltimore City Juvenile Court Early Intervention Project (JCEIP), which helps connect youth and their families with behavioral health and other services. 
  • We collaborate with Baltimore City Public Schools and the Department of Social Services to provide in-school behavioral health support for children and youth, as well as teachers and staff members. The Expanded School Behavioral Health program is providing mental health counseling in 128 Baltimore City Public Schools and substance use services in 15 schools.
  • We and our partners provide case management and other support to young people and their families with intensive mental health needs.
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Shameka Thomas-Habersham, Child and Family Director at BHSB, discusses our work to strengthen service coordination in various settings in Baltimore.

“Mental health is a crucial part of children’s overall health and wellness and their ability to succeed in school. There are long-term implications if these needs are not met, so my hope for the future is that we continue to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated care, services, and supports for every child who needs services. Agencies like BHSB can further the work through advocacy, promotion, and funding.”
Ashley Collins, Staff Specialist for Mental Health Coordination in the Office of Health and Specialized Student Services
“We have team meetings where we bring everybody together. It can be hard. Parents are working, teachers are busy. Bringing people together can be difficult. Our team is that glue, pulling people together in that child’s life, to have everybody on the same page working on their concerns.”
Stacey Bass, Co-Executive Director, Empowering Minds Resource Center, which provides care coordination services