Atlantic General Hospital Opens Worcester County’s First Walk-In Behavioral Health Crisis Center
CENTER IS PART OF A LARGER EFFORT FUNDED THROUGH A $11 MILLION HEALTH SERVICES COST REVIEW COMMISSION GRANT
If you experience a sudden physical illness or injury, you know that you can visit an urgent care clinic or will be cared for at the nearest emergency room, depending upon severity. In most communities, there is no comparable service for acute mental health or substance use-related illness. Atlantic General Hospital, along with multiple community agencies, is working to change that on the Eastern Shore. As part of a grant-funded partnership with TidalHealth Peninsula Regional and more than a dozen community agencies called the Tri-County Behavioral Health Engagement (TRIBE), Atlantic General’s Behavioral Health Crisis Center opens on January 31 to care for adults and pediatric patients ages five and older who are in urgent need of behavioral health intervention. Initially, the center will be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with plans to expand the hours as the program matures. The primary site, which will offer 23-hour crisis stabilization, will be opened by TidalHealth in Salisbury later this year. While the center will rely largely on referrals from local EMS, schools and community agencies, it also accepts walk-ins who self-refer for care. No appointment is necessary. Individuals will receive an initial intake assessment with access to behavioral counseling, psychiatric care and medication management via telehealth as needed. Staff will provide realtime connection with needed resources provided by agencies located on site. Insurance and financial counseling services will also be available. Roughly 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 children experience mental illness in some form each year. One in 20 Americans experiences serious mental illness, and the opioid epidemic continues to rage. Despite the prevalence of mental health and substance use illness in the U.S. and right here on the Shore, there is little infrastructure in place to address behavioral crises. Individuals and their loved ones too often must rely on emergency departments, which are staffed by teams trained to provide episodic care for physical illness and trauma. Many times, those in behavioral health crisis who present to the ER and are then stabilized and released, fail to follow up for further community-based care. Often the underlying condition itself stands in the way, or individuals are overwhelmed when attempting to navigate a fragmented healthcare system. In addition to providing warm hand-offs to community agency partners for support services, the crisis center will coordinate transfers to higher levels of care when needed. A care coordinator will follow individuals for five days or until those warm hand-offs or follow up appointments are completed. “By providing a dedicated center for immediate behavioral healthcare that is comfortable and welcoming, we hope to normalize the experience of seeking help and to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness,” said Tina Simmons, director of population health at Atlantic General Hospital. "The Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission is excited to support the opening of this center through the Commission's regional partnership program. This is an important improvement in access to high quality crisis care on the Eastern Shore," said Katie Wunderlich, executive director of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. The TRIBE partnership’s goal, in addition to reducing barriers to behavioral health care, is to eliminate redundancies in services and reduce the improper utilization of emergency department services. Efforts are supported through a fiveyear, $11 million grant from the Health Services Cost Review Commission. To learn more, visit www.agh.care/TRIBE. About Atlantic General Hospital Atlantic General Hospital has been providing quality health care to the residents of Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset (Md.) and Sussex (Del.) counties since May 1993. Built by the commitment and generosity of a dedicated community, the hospital’s state-of-the-art facility in Berlin, Md. combines compassion and expertise with the latest in technology and services. Atlantic General Health System, its network of more than 25 primary care provider and specialist offices, care for residents and visitors throughout the region. For more information about Atlantic General Hospital, visit www.agh.care. About TidalHealth In 2020, nearly 5,000 healthcare providers from across the region united under one name in celebration of a shared mission: to improve the health of the community. TidalHealth -- which includes TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, TidalHealth Nanticoke, TidalHealth McCready Pavilion, and an expansive physician network with 31 locations, 250 providers in 22 different specialties -- have joined forces to offer the best in patient-centered care. We provide a full range of services, including neurosurgery, cardiothoracic surgery, joint replacement, emergency/trauma care, comprehensive cancer care, women’s and children’s services, wound care and clinical trials and research as a member of the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network. With its legacy of firsts and proven accomplishments — and its ability to extend care above and beyond its walls — TidalHealth is in a position to offer the best care in our region. Learn more at tidalhealth.org.