By Pamela Wood The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — Baltimore County plans to expand its mobile crisis teams to provide support in mental health emergencies around the clock.

The mobile crisis teams, which are staffed by police officers and mental health professionals from the Affiliated Sante Group, currently operate only from 9:30 a.m. until 1 a.m.

County Executive Don Mohler is proposing to spend $561,000 to extend the crisis teams to cover the overnight hours.

Mohler, a Democrat, said in a statement that the teams provide “a vital service in their most vulnerable moments.”

“Mental health crises don’t start in the morning and end at night. We have to take care of those in need,” Mohler said.

Last year, the county’s mobile crisis teams handled 2,343 calls.

Expanding the mental health crisis teams was a key recommendation of an independent review of how police and first responders handle mental health calls earlier this year.

Former County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat who died in May, had ordered the review following a series of incidents involving subjects with mental illness, including the police shooting death of Korryn Gaines in her Randallstown apartment in 2016.

Police and Gaines, who was armed with a shotgun and had a history of mental illness, engaged in a day-long standoff at her apartment that ended with police fatally shooting her. Gaines’ family sued the county and won a $38 million judgement. The county filed post-trial motions to overturn the judgement and also appealed the ruling.

The review, conducted by the Council of State Governments, found that Baltimore County’s crisis response system had a good foundation but suffered from a lack of coordination, lack of oversight and insufficient staffing.

The report was issued in late April, about two weeks before Kamenetz died of sudden cardiac arrest. At the time, he said that mental illness was a growing issue of concern for the county.

“It’s important that Baltimore County continue to be a leader in providing solutions before we have a terrible problem,” Kamenetz said at the time.

The additional spending on the mobile crisis teams will need approval by the Baltimore County Council, and Chairman Julian Jones already has signaled his support.

©2018 The Baltimore Sun

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