Maryland Advocacy and Policy
211 Maryland is a trusted resource utilized by State Government before, during and after crises like COVID-19. Our on-demand push-alerts, technology platforms and empathetic resource specialists at call centers allow us to respond 24/7/365 to essential needs. Our collaborative partnerships with organizations allow us to continue to develop and expand community solutions.
In Fiscal Year 2020, 211 Maryland call centers responded to more than 405,000 calls, texts and web chats helping Marylanders navigate the sometimes-confusing maze of health and human service agencies. With over 7,000 private nonprofit and public health and human service programs in the 211 Maryland database, 211 is Maryland's Central Connector.
Mental Health Services Phone Call Program
211 Maryland is working with the Maryland Department of Health and Delegate Cullison on House Bill 812, Mental Health Services Phone Call Program. The purpose is to create an opt-in mental health services phone call program that:
- Requires a call center to periodically call individuals who have opted in to this mental health services phone call program.
- Connects individuals to mental health providers and services if the individual asks to talk to one during the 211 Maryland call.
Marylanders would be able to opt-in to a program through text, an online sign-up form, or by dialing 2-1-1.
The service would expand the reach of 211, Press 1 which helps individuals in crisis. With this proactive program, resource specialists would call individuals periodically and improve their access with a direct connection to behavioral and mental health services. If needed, that person would be connected with a crisis specialist.
“During these difficult times, it’s really important Marylanders know that they are not alone and help is needed. This legislation will provide a lifeline and empathetic voice to many who are in need. As someone who lost a loved one last month to suicide I understand the toll it takes on a family. And I urge you to consider the positive statewide impact this legislation can have,” said Quinton Askew, president and CEO of 211 Maryland.
Delegate Cullison echoed the impact that losing someone to suicide has on surviving family members and friends. She spoke of two families she knows struggling with a loss.
“We all grieve when we lose someone, but when we lose someone to suicide we are always left wondering what could we have done, what should we have done. Ultimately it was that person’s decision but the survivors are always left wondering,” Cullison said.
There are similar programs in at least two other states.
There are also a number of other legislative priorities including:
1. Increase funding for 211 Maryland to ensure its ability to respond to emergencies and constituent needs is not weakened.
The General Assembly mandated a 211 Maryland cost-benefit analysis which showed challenges and opportunities. 211 Maryland requests the state increase annual funding, to a total investment of $1.4 million.
Without additional committed funding, 211 MD cannot invest in the infrastructure, technological and systemic innovations that will significantly increase its capacity, efficiency and outreach throughout the state.
2. Ensure state agencies consult with 211 prior to establishing any new health and human service phone lines or database systems.
211 Maryland believes a together integration of 211 with existing state departments, and a decreased use of 800 numbers, would increase service quality for Marylanders, at considerably lower costs to the state.
211 Maryland provides support to thousands of more Marylanders each day than before than the pandemic as COVID-19 related concerns continue. The challenging circumstances require 211 Maryland to work together to ensure the organization can respond to the increase in crisis, mental health, substance use and other health and human service calls.
State agencies like the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), law enforcement and other disaster relief agencies turn to 211 Maryland to inform and connect Marylanders using our push alert technology. More than 96,000 Marylanders subscribe to MDReady (English) and MDListo (Spanish) text alerts which inform Marylanders of the latest COVID-19 information and vaccine alerts as well as connects individuals on-demand with local testing sites.
Call center resource specialists are the unsung heroes on the frontlines, answering nearly double the number of calls during COVID-19. They've handled increased call volume with compassion and professionalism. Over 40,000 Marylanders were connected to services during just the first three months of the pandemic.
While not involved with scheduling COVID-19 vaccines, call volumes increased during vaccine sign-ups. 211 Maryland answered numerous calls and directed Marylanders to the appropriate state vaccine website.
Read the 211 Maryland annual report for 2020 for more details on the cost-benefit analysis, and how the increased investment will properly fund 211 Maryland.
Partnerships Make Communities Stronger
Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)
Together, 211 Maryland developed a statewide English (MDReady) and Spanish (MDListo) text messages to support Marylanders impacted by the pandemic or other disaster.
"With 211-MD we have had a solid partner that has helped us broaden the reach of our public communications. Whether it is a planned awareness campaign, or whether it is an emergency that necessitates immediate alerts and notices sent to Maryland residents, 211-MD has been there when we have needed them," said Jorge Eduardo Castillo, MBA of the MD COVID-19 Joint Information Center and MEMA.
Maryland Department of Health/Behavioral Health Administration
211, Press 1 is the best practice example of collaboration between public/private agencies, providing a single point of entry for individuals in crisis.
In addition to answering more than 30,000 crisis calls in FY 2020, we launched an English (MDMindHealth) and Spanish (MDSaludMental) on-demand text subscription for mental wellness.
Maryland Department of Aging (MDoA)
211 Maryland partnered with MDoA to be the access point for the Caregiver Services Corp, which assists older adults who need urgent assistance with everyday tasks.
Maryland Department of Human Services/Office of Emergency Operations (OPR)
211 Maryland is the statewide feed resource line for seniors and Marylanders who lost access to food due to COVID-19.
"2-1-1 Maryland has shown extraordinary flexibility, leadership and collaboration throughout the entire duration of this nationwide COVID-19 emergency. Their leadership staff, operational coordinators, call specialists, and all staff in between have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to changes in referral programs and set-up brand new programs without issue," said Bethany Brown, Assistant Chief of the Division of Administrative Operations, Office of Emergency Operations with the Maryland Department of Human Services.
RX Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) Maryland
MDHope is a unique texting program that helps individuals access opioid-related information and support. It's the result of a partnership between RALI Maryland and 211 Maryland.
Legislative Support for opioid-related programming
A number of legislators have also supported our on-demand text messages for opioid-related support.
Delegates Joseline Peña-Melnyk, Bonnie Cullison, Shaneka Henson, and Ken Kerr as well as Senator Kathy Klausmeier recorded Public Service Announcements (PSA's) to spread the message of hope with their constituents.
- General opioid information, including signs of overdose.
- Treatment options.
- Overdose reversal medication information.
- Bi-weekly positive messages of support.
- Safe ways to dispose of prescription drugs.
Text MDHope to 898-211.