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More mobile mental health teams to be added in Montgomery Co.

The teams, generally consisting of a licensed clinician and a peer support specialist, operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

More mobile crisis outreach teams, or MCOTs, are getting ready to roll in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The teams, generally consisting of a licensed clinician and a peer support specialist, operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Currently, there are three MCOTs operating across the county — and a grant to add two more teams has been secured.

Another two teams could be added in the future — they’re included in Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s FY2025 budget request. That would bring the total number of MCOTs to seven.

Manager of Montgomery County’s Crisis Center, Beth Tabachnick, said there’s a clear need for the additional teams.

“We do get over 40,000 phone calls a year at the Crisis Center,” she told reporters during the Montgomery County executive’s weekly briefing Thursday.

In the past year, the three existing teams responded to 2,100 calls for assistance.

“You know, post-COVID, we saw — as the community has seen — a spike in mental health concerns and behavioral health distress,” Tabachnick said.

The expansion of the program comes as communities around the country work to get away from relying on police to respond to calls that are connected to mental health needs.

Tabachnick said there are times when police aren’t needed to handle a call, or “maybe it is a little bit anxiety-provoking for an individual” who may be experiencing a mental health crisis to have police arrive on a scene.

Tabachnick said the MCOTs respond to 30% to 35% of calls on their own, but that in other cases, his agency’s teams may request police, or police may arrive at a scene and request the MCOTs.

“We’ve always had a very strong collaboration with law enforcement,” she said.

With added MCOTs operating in the county in the future, Tabachnick said it’s likely the numbers will shift, with less reliance on police.

Most referrals, Tabachnick said, come from “schools, our shelter system, our law enforcement first responder partners.”

Asked if there have been more people in need of mental health services in recent years, Tabachnick said, “I think that we’ve always had this need in the community,” but since COVID, when it comes to mental health, “I think as we’re talking about it more and there’s more recognition, there’s a little bit less stigma attached to some of these services.”

Just as a number of government agencies found they were short staffed, Tabachnick said there were vacancies in her department.

“There are seven vacancies for full-time therapist positions,” Tabachnick said.

“We are continuously recruiting for qualified, competent professionals who are interested in this type of work.”

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