Views from the frontlines: Maryland’s mental health crisis

This content is sponsored by Compass Health Center. Learn more about their mission here.

A state in crisis

Experts say Maryland, like the rest of the United States, is in a mental health crisis.

Maryland is in crisis, with roughly 838,000 Marylanders aged 12 and up struggling with a mental health condition.

“It is a shame that, whenever I see a patient, they’re coming in an absolute crisis where they have nowhere to turn,” said Dr. Holley Meers, who leads the emergency medicine and hospitalist teams at Holy Cross Health.

“That’s not hyperbole,” said Dr. Marissa Leslie, Medical Director of Compass Health Center – Maryland. “We have many children, adolescents and adults waiting in emergency departments, sometimes for hours or months, just wanting to access the right care at the right time, but finding difficulty accessing that care.”

Accessing the system

Meers said many of those she treats struggle to navigate the health system. “It’s difficult enough whenever you’re at your optimal level, and then whenever you’re having some mental health crisis, then trying to navigate it, it makes it even more complicated. So I think that’s where they sometimes end up with me in the emergency department.”

There are alternatives to the emergency room.

“There is the number 988 to talk to someone trained in mental health emergencies or things that are becoming emergencies. There’s your primary care practitioner, your physician, or [nurse practitioner], and then there’s a place like my center – Compass Health Center – which is a partial hospitalization program and intensive outpatient program,” Leslie said. “In a program like ours, we’ll do an intake, we’ll do an evaluation and assessment, to see what the needs are. And if we’re not the right fit, we have people who can refer the individual or the loved one to the right level of care.”

Moving forward

The National Alliance on Mental Illness also says nearly 60,000 Marylanders ages 12 to 17 have depression.

“The goal is to catch them early on,” said counselor Ann Redman, who is responsible for more than 250 students at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland. She said poor mental health is contributing to things like chronic absenteeism and student fights. She added that the issue is “permeating the entire school system.”

“We have underinvested in some of the structures and supports that we really need to handle the mental health population, because it simply wasn’t always a priority,” said Maryland Sen. Will Smith, a Democrat from Montgomery County. “Our government systems need to evolve to handle those issues.”

Speaking on the WTOP panel discussion “Views from the frontlines: Maryland’s mental health crisis,” the panelists said that increased funding for mental health initiatives, more venues for mental health treatment and a continued de-stigmatization of the issue would all help.

About Compass Health Center

Compass Health Center provides immediate, specialized mental health services to adolescents, young adults, and adults within 24 hours of the first phone call. Their approach hinges on three key principles: immediate access, comprehensive care, and specialization. Compass Health Center ensures immediate access with assessments available same/next-day and psychiatric evaluations within 48 hours of program initiation, providing treatment in areas like Trauma, OCD, School Refusal, Anxiety, Depression, Mental Health and Substance Use.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up