(Feb. 12, 2021) It has often been said that it “takes a village” to solve some of the greatest challenges facing any community.

On the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, the responsibility of managing and closing existing gaps in crisis care for individuals experiencing behavioral health crises belongs to the TRIBE.

TRIBE is the Tri-County Behavioral Health Engagement. The newly formed collaboration is a regional partnership between TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, Atlantic General Hospital and nine behavioral health community partner agencies.

Their immediate goal is to design behavioral health crisis stabilization centers, or behavioral health urgent care centers.

“TRIBE originated from a community partners group that met monthly for about a year with the mission of working together to identify gaps in behavioral health services in the tri-county area, with the goal of not duplicating services and working together to address unmet needs,” said Katherine Smith, MSW, LCSW-C, executive director of TidalHealth Behavioral Health Services. “A grant opportunity gave TRIBE the ability to establish a regional partnership and obtain the resources to address the community’s biggest identified gaps – namely accessing behavioral health care in a crisis in real time.”

TRIBE’s primary function is a three-county centralized response to reduce emergency department utilization, hospital admissions and readmissions for individuals experiencing behavioral health issues.

In addition, the partnership will increase collaboration with community behavioral health and crisis agencies, including law enforcement, eliminate duplication of services and increase opportunities to help patients experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

Currently, individuals who need emergent behavioral health care must either wait for an appointment with a community agency provider or go to their hospital’s local emergency room.

“When opened later this year, individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis will be able to have their needs met in real time, to feel relief sooner and hopefully avoid needing higher levels of care,” said Tina Simmons, MBA, BSN, RN, LSSBBH, director of Nursing for Atlantic General Health System. “These centers will play an integral part in the larger continuum of care of behavioral health services currently in operation in our communities.”

The two crisis centers will essentially serve as behavioral health urgent care centers where individuals can receive crisis respite, observation and intervention in a warm, friendly, home-like community setting.

The primary site, which will be near TidalHealth Peninsula Regional in Salisbury, will be open seven days a week with extended hours and feature a safe, home-like environment.

A satellite site near Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, will initially welcome patients six days a week, with plans to expand to seven days a week.

A warm and seamless handoff for follow-up care and services with community providers will be arranged that day or the next.

Those community provider partners include Lower Shore Clinic, Resource Recovery Center, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), Sante Mobile Crisis, Life Crisis Center, Chesapeake Health Services and the health departments of Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties.

TidalHealth Peninsula Regional and Atlantic General Hospital are the lead agencies for this endeavor, with nine community agencies aiding its success.

Community partners will play an integral role in developing procedures and protocols and operating the centers. They’ll aid in the coordinated response to individuals in crisis by ensuring a seamless warm handoff for continued patient care.

At both locations, providers will seek to relieve immediate crisis symptoms, provide observation, determine levels of care. Individuals will be triaged, linked with peer support, and offered brief crisis counseling, medication management services to include psychiatric and substance abuse as appropriate, and care navigation.

Some services may be completed via telehealth to share resources between sites. Law enforcement and EMS may transport patients to the center, if allowable by state regulations.

The Health Services Cost Review Commission (HSCRC) Regional Partnership Catalyst Grant program approved five years of funding at just over $11 million. Centers should open by late summer/early fall 2021.

To learn more about TRIBE or the services offered by partner agencies, visit agh.care/TRIBE or call 410-543-7119.

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