April 15, 2015

Horizon Foundation, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, and Howard County General Hospital launch mental health initiative

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman today announced a partnership with the Horizon Foundation and the Howard County General Hospital to begin implementation of recommendations made by the Behavioral Health Task Force.

The Task Force, chaired by Nicolette Highsmith Vernick, President and CEO of the Horizon Foundation and Donna Wells, Executive Director of the Mental Health Authority, submitted its findings to the County Executive and formally released its report March 27, 2015. The report is available online. (http://www.hcmha.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/BehavioralHealthTaskForceReport-FinalReport.pdf )

“This partnership will help the County strengthen the delivery of urgently needed mental health services. I appreciate the Task Force’s work to provide a comprehensive blueprint that will help us improve mental health services,” Kittleman said.

The County will add a behavioral health specialist to the Health Department’s Community Care Teams, which work closely with Howard County General Hospital to serve residents who are frequently hospitalized. The Hospital will also pilot a program with Way Station to provide outpatient crisis stabilization services within 24-48 hours of an individual accessing care. Finally, Howard County Mental Health Authority’s online provider directory will be updated so that individuals in need of care have access to correct provider information on a variety of electronic devices.

“We know we have to do more and while there are budget challenges, moving the needle to improve mental health services in Howard County is a priority for me, particularly when we have so many individuals going without mental health treatment because there is no facility or plan to deal with a crisis,” Kittleman said. “I look forward to partnering with the Horizon Foundation and the Hospital to make care available at places like Howard County General Hospital and Way Station to provide immediate intervention and help individuals navigate mental health services.”

The County Executive will include funding for this initiative in his FY16 Operating Budget, due to be released on April 20, 2015.

“The Community Needs Assessment identified behavioral health issues as one of our highest health care priorities in the county,” said Steven C. Snelgrove, president of Howard County General Hospital. “We applaud the county for starting to work on the recommendations of the Behavioral Health Task Force and are pleased to partner with the County and the Horizon Foundation to address gaps in the continuum of care.”

“Our goal is to help build a robust behavioral health system that values prevention, early intervention, and integrated care for people living with behavioral health conditions,” said Highsmith Vernick, President and CEO of the Horizon Foundation, which is providing $50,000 in funding to support this initiative. “Together, we are advancing that work by expanding access to urgent behavioral health care services, and the Foundation applauds the County Executive and Howard County General Hospital for their commitment to this joint effort.”