Carroll County is working to use millions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief funding to increase and enhance mental health services and county residents’ access to them.

Commissioners approved last week a request from the Department of Citizen Services to award contracts to four vendors to expand and enhance access to mental health and substance use services. The contracts are for a combined total of $3.4 million, funded by the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program.

The program, part of the American Rescue Plan, delivered $350 billion to state, local and Tribal governments across the country to support responses to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Carroll County’s citizen services department has been exploring ways to use these funds to help address gaps in mental and behavioral health services in the county.

During a Board of Carroll County Commissioners meeting Thursday, Celene Steckel, director of citizen services, explained that her department put out a Request for Proposals to design programs that expand and enhance access to mental health and substance use services for county residents.

Four proposals were selected for funding. They include a request from the Potomac Healthcare Foundation and Maryland Treatment Centers, which provide affordable access to substance use disorder treatment in Carroll County.

“Their proposal focuses on the growing need of immediate access to medication assisted treatment and opioid use disorder treatment for those leaving incarceration,” Steckel said.

Another vendor, Affiliated Sante Group, has been operating Carroll’s mobile crisis response team for more than four years.

“Their crisis program is part of a well-integrated behavioral health continuum of care that works to provide crisis intervention, stabilization and assists with linking consumers to ongoing care,” Steckel said.

Affiliated Sante Group’s proposal would increase administrative services, and add a crisis stabilization team to enhance follow-up activities with consumers and reduce police wait times for mobile crisis dispatch.

Access Carroll, a nonprofit that maintains a multiservice integrated health model for at-risk individuals, including substance use and behavioral health services, proposed continued funding for a peer recovery specialist, as well as adding two peer recovery specialists and community health workers to meet the demand for services in Carroll County.

The fourth proposal came from the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau, a multidisciplinary behavioral health practice that offers a wide range of outpatient treatment options and preventive services designed to support children and adolescents as well as transitional age youth, adults and families.

The bureau’s proposal would address an expansion of open access to allow for more assessment slots and available appointments for clinical services.

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All contracts will be funded through Dec. 31, 2024.

Steckel said an evaluation committee was formed to conduct technical and financial review of the proposals submitted. The committee evaluated all proposals based on criteria detailed in the Request for Proposals.

The committee included Steckel, staff from the county grants office, as well as from Carroll County Public Schools and the county’s health department.

“This is a great use of FRF dollars, especially as we are moving into post-COVID,” said Commissioner President Ed Rothstein, a District 5 Republican. “I really do applaud you doing this because behavioral health is important.”

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, a Republican representing District 4, said he is a “big champion” of access to behavioral health services in the community.

“Of all the relief funding we’ve received, in my opinion, this is probably the most important long-term funding that we are allocating to our citizens,” he said. “It’ll also help provide relief to law enforcement.”