New Program Helps Emergency Rooms Connect Patients To Community Resources

211 Maryland and the Maryland Department of Health partner to help improve mental health outcomes for people in emergency rooms.

BALTIMORE – 211 Maryland, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), and the MDH Behavioral Health Administration are excited to announce the statewide launch of the 211 Care Coordination program for hospital emergency departments (EDs). Patients discharged from EDs would often benefit from community-based behavioral health services, but finding available mental health and substance use services can be difficult. The Care Coordination program makes it easier by allowing hospital staff to connect patients with timely, community-based referrals for behavioral health services upon discharge.

The rate of mental health ED visits significantly increased from 11.46% in 2018 to 47.95% in 2021 with nearly half of the visits occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2021. In response to increasing demand for mental health services in EDs, 211 Maryland and MDH launched a pilot phase of the Care Coordination program in the Baltimore area in July 2022. Now the program is available to hospitals across Maryland.

“Thank you to our hospital partners who were instrumental in this initiative getting off the ground,” said MDH Secretary Dennis R. Schrader. “Having visibility into available mental health and substance use resources in a timely manner is critical. When Marylanders leave the emergency room, it marks the beginning of the next step in their care, and this program streamlines existing resources to connect individuals with appropriate services when they need them most.”

Hospital discharge planners can access the Care Coordination program by dialing 2-1-1 and pressing 4, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 211’s Care Coordinators will then gather more information, search for available services convenient to the patient, share the service information with the hospital discharge planner, and connect the patient as appropriate. Afterwards, Care Coordinators will follow up with the patients and close the loop with the discharge planners.

“211 coordinators collaborate well and respond timely to provide resources and guidance in disposition planning. The coordinators follow-up directly with the referral source. 211 also works to provide continuity in the community with the goal of promoting a successful transition,” said Craig Carmichael, president of Northwest Hospital and SVP of LifeBridge Health, one of the early hospital adopters. “Once engaged with 211 team members, we saw significant reductions in the time patients were being held for transfer to other facilities for treatment.”

“Some Marylanders who find themselves hospitalized may need additional, continued support,” said MDH Behavioral Health Administration Acting Deputy Secretary Dr. Lisa Burgess. “It is our responsibility to ensure that Maryland’s behavioral health system connects these individuals to necessary mental health and substance use services. The 211 Care Coordination program helps to ensure they will receive the ongoing care they need.”

211 Maryland maintains a powerful, statewide database that includes thousands of resources to connect residents to a host of services: from mental health practitioners and substance use treatment to food and housing assistance. Leveraging the power of 211’s database and community partners, the Care Coordination program supports hospital discharge planners in locating available and accessible behavioral health services for patients being discharged from emergency rooms.

About 211 Maryland

211 Maryland is a statewide hotline that provides essential connections to Marylanders when they need it most through call, text and chat. 211 is managed by the Maryland Information Network, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that uses information and technology to connect Marylanders to the health and human services they need to achieve a more stable life for themselves and their families.

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