(ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Feb. 19, 2019) – Plans to march in Annapolis Wednesday were foiled by a foul weather forecast, but for more than a million Marylanders, funding for mental health and substance use disorder treatment can still be a life-or-death issue.

Catholic Charities is a member of the Behavioral Health Coalition, which organized the Keep the Door Open rally as a show of support for full state funding for treatment options. Advocates are encouraging state lawmakers to accept the full platform of funding requests for these kinds of treatments. Since the partial government shutdown makes the March state revenue reports uncertain, advocates also want to discourage any potential cuts to the funding.

Why push?

One in five Marylanders lives with a mental health or substance use disorder. Funding for community-based care can help people before they reach a crisis point. For every dollar spent on behavioral health services, taxpayers save $7 in future costs.

“The biggest challenge that our community has is that many people cannot access care in a timely manner,” said Catholic Charities Assistant Medical Director Dr. Enrique Oviedo. “The ripple effect is that sometimes people go into crisis and have to use emergency services like emergency rooms, or calls to the police, or calls for crisis teams to come out to the home. As we know, those are very costly services. If a problem can be addressed promptly in an outpatient setting, we can drastically reduce the need for those more expensive services.”

Gov. Larry Hogan released a budget in late January that funds prior budget commitments for access to care. State legislators do not have the power to add to the governor’s budget; they may only cut or reallocate funding.

“With opioid overdose deaths continuing to rise and demand for behavioral health services skyrocketing, we must continue to find common-sense solutions to expand access to treatment and community-based services for all Marylanders in need,” Mental Health Association Senior Director of Public Policy Dan Martin said in a press release when the state budget was released.

You can find more ways to advocate in support of mental health and substance use disorder funding at keepthedooropenmd.org.