Director, Behavioral Health Program Design and Strategy
We’ve come a long way in dealing with mental health issues, especially since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. With an increasing number of people suffering from conditions like depression, anxiety and addiction, American society seems to discuss mental illness and mental health treatment much more openly and with less judgment.
Of course, it has always been harder for prominent individuals—especially those serving in public office—to be open about their mental health and the mental health of their loved ones. Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman and his family recently shared that he has been hospitalized for clinical depression, which is common among stroke survivors. I commented about both the sadness and hope the news brought me in a letter to the editor , which was published by The New York Times.
Senator Fetterman’s decision to publicly share his struggle with depression demonstrates that mental illness and seeking treatment should be supported, not stigmatized. But it’s important to remember that although they are undoubtedly suffering, Senator Fetterman and his family are also lucky because he has timely access to affordable care.
Many people struggling with mental illness and addiction in the U.S., including here in Montgomery County, are not nearly as fortunate. Although our county is comparatively rich in resources, many residents who suffer from mental illness or addiction struggle to find the affordable, accessible, and culturally appropriate services they desperately need.
When someone is in crisis, they usually end up in the nearest hospital emergency room. The ER is ill-equipped to provide the care and follow-up people in crisis need, and attempting to stabilize them diverts emergency department staff from addressing the heart attacks, trauma, and other kinds of emergencies they are equipped to treat. The result is a waste—of existing resources and of our community’s human potential.
The Primary Care Coalition is working to change this by supporting the establishment of the county’s first 24/7/365 crisis stabilization facility. This new “Restoration Center” will provide short-term stabilization, navigation to community-based services, and robust follow-up for adult county residents experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.
Residents in crisis typically end up in one of the county’s six emergency rooms, but they’re often taken there by police. The facility’s planned location is adjacent to the county’s Central Processing Unit and Detention Center in Rockville, an existing, centralized location for police drop-offs. Besides streamlining the process for police, that location would give the thousands of individuals who are released into the community every year direct access to essential medical and social support.
By diverting individuals in crisis from languishing in hospital emergency rooms, the Restoration Center will improve outcomes for affected residents and the county overall. People in crisis get a more appropriate and higher quality experience, while the county has more first responders and critical healthcare resources freed up for medical emergencies.
I am inspired by the work of our Nexus Montgomery hospital partners, as well as the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, Police Department, and Fire and Rescue Services, and our many community-based partners that have brought plans for the Restoration Center closer to fruition. Funding has been secured for the project, and those of us who work in behavioral health every day clearly see the urgent need. What we need now is support from the residents of Rockville to move this project forward.
None of us are immune to behavioral health challenges, and we need a stabilization facility that can serve every adult who wants treatment. Please join us in supporting the county's plan for Restoration Center construction at the Seven Locks Campus in Rockville. Express your support at the upcoming community forum on Thursday, April 20th from 7pm-8:30pm in the County Council building, 100 Maryland Avenue, in downtown Rockville.
Questions? Contact Elizabeth Arend Dutta at firstname.lastname@example.org.