During this week’s Anne Arundel County Council meeting, the County’s Health Department briefed members on ways they are addressing youth mental health and the path forward.
May is National Mental Health Awareness month, and many counties are participating in various ways to bring attention to this troubling issue exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. This week, Anne Arundel County council members were briefed by their county’s Health Officer, Nilesh Kalyanaraman.
Of note during the presentation was a drastic increase in youth mental health crises and frequency of youth calling into the county’s crisis phone line. The effects of COVID-19 was noted as “a challenge that we will have to work through over the coming years,” remarked Kalyanaraman. “The picture is shifting, and it’s shifting rapidly,” Kalyanaraman continued, speaking to the increasing turnover of mental health professionals. Turnover continues to be a problem multiple counties are seeking to address and improve, and Anne Arundel county is looking to the state to help provide resources for this issue.
The county has implemented several programs to address mental health, especially among youth populations in schools. Kalyanaraman expressed that is is important to intervene and provide resources before a crisis occurs and partnering with other county departments and organizations is key. He also discussed the importance of being effective in prevention by recognizing that “it’s harder to fix a gap once it’s manifested itself…we need to look at our policies in the first few years of life.”
According to The Baltimore Sun’s coverage of the meeting:
The school system partnered with the health department to launch the Screening Teens to Access Recovery, or STAR, program in March 2019 to screen high school students for substance abuse or mental health issues. It’s set to launch in middle schools this month.
This example is just one of many ways the county is working to meet youth where they are at in order to provide valuable resources. Training for mental health first aid and identifying signs of a crisis were pointed to as ways the community can participate in mental health response. The County’s health department is expanding their training programs to faith and community leaders to build on their prior success with the program.
The briefing continued with a question and answer period for council members. You can view the recording of the meeting and all prior meetings on the county’s website. The county council will continue to discuss mental health resources as they discuss the county budget later this week.