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A History of Social Action

For more than 100 years, the Mental Health Association of Maryland has worked to address the mental health needs of Marylanders of all ages through programs that educate the public to increase understanding and provide resources, advance public policy to improve care and outcomes, and monitor the quality of services received by individuals living with mental illness and substance use disorders.

Our experienced staff and volunteers work with local Mental Health Association chapters and branches across the state of Maryland. Through our local, state and national network, consumers, advocates, family members and concerned citizens work together to promote mental health and recovery from mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The record of accomplishment that follows, covering the past 10 years, is a tribute to the energy and dedication of MHAMD volunteers, leaders and partners across the state who believe that change for the better is always possible.


Worked with the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition on a successful legislative campaign that secured additional investments in community mental health and substance use services, greater accountability in the management of Maryland’s public behavioral health system, new policies to improve health equity, greater flexibility in the delivery of telehealth, enhanced school behavioral health supports, and more resources for individuals in crisis. Organized a series of virtual forums covering children’s behavioral health services, juvenile justice reform, and crisis response expansion efforts. Advocated successfully for strong behavioral health parity reporting requirements. Continued working with the business community to build alignment and relationships across sectors, realizing positive developments in the expansion telehealth and measurement-based care. Operationalized a renewed organizational focus on diversity, inclusiveness, and community engagement, ensuring that advocacy efforts are relevant to and appropriately addressing the needs of those most impacted by the resulting policies.


Organized the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition around an ambitious legislative effort that protected $25 million in proposed budget cuts to community mental health and substance use disorder services, ensured that student behavioral health needs were addressed in a landmark education reform bill, enhanced parity compliance reporting requirements, and enacted measures to improve the diversion of individuals in crisis away from emergency departments and the criminal justice system. Worked to ensure access to care and prevent a disruption of behavioral health services during the coronavirus pandemic. Advocated for increased flexibility in the delivery of treatment via telehealth. Pressed for actions to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on Marylanders living and working in congregate settings. Convened a range of stakeholders in a series of forums aimed at reducing racial disparities at the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice. Partnered with the business community to launch a private sector initiative focused on improving behavioral health care in Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia.


Rallied the Behavioral Health Coalition to secure a multi-year 22 percent increase in funding for community mental health and substance use disorder services, improve behavioral health service coordination in Maryland schools, ensure the availability of medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorders in correctional facilities, and modify several laws and programs designed to divert people with behavioral health needs away from emergency departments. Defeated legislation that threatened to disrupt public behavioral health services for 300,000 Marylanders and informed a subsequent state-level system restructuring process. Helped shape recommendations developed by the newly established Commission to Study Mental and Behavioral Health in Maryland. Ensured the inclusion of behavioral health service categories in justice reinvestment grant funding. Supported successful efforts to increase behavioral health supports for veterans, expand access to telehealth services, and decriminalize attempted suicide.


Worked with the Behavioral Health Coalition to secure an additional $16 million in funding for the state’s behavioral health workforce; improve access to care through an expansion of telehealth services and a three-year, $12-million funding initiative to increase crisis response services; enhance the quality and effectiveness of behavioral health care delivered in primary care settings through a $2-million pilot of the Collaborative Care Model; and ensure access to data necessary to improve the system of care for children and youth. Informed and influenced state processes charged with redesigning Maryland’s public education system and reinvesting savings from various criminal justice reform policies. Advocated for passage of a “red flag” law to reduce suicide by firearm. Continued efforts to ensure the appropriate implementation of federal healthcare reform and insurance parity laws.


Saw passage of the Keep the Door Open Act — the namesake legislation of the Behavioral Health Coalition’s multi-year advocacy effort to increase funding for community mental health and substance use disorder services. The bill was included as part of the landmark Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Treatment Act of 2017. Led the effort to pass legislation increasing maternal mental health resources and training for the public and providers. Advocated successfully for the adoption of budget language in furtherance of a pilot Collaborative Care program. Partnered with other stakeholders to develop an outpatient civil commitment pilot program designed to improve services for individuals with serious mental illness who have not been well-served by the public behavioral health system. Realized a longstanding goal of the Coalition on Mental Health and Aging with the establishment of regional geriatric behavioral health specialists. Reconstituted a Children’s Behavioral Health Coalition to focus and coordinate advocacy efforts specific to that population.


Together with the Behavioral Health Coalition, renewed the Keep the Door Open campaign and mobilized around an ambitious agenda to properly resource Maryland’s community behavioral health provider network, develop a plan for ensuring access to critical crisis services statewide, and increase substance use disorder funding and treatment resources. Partnered with other stakeholders to pass landmark network adequacy legislation. Worked to improve health outcomes in primary care settings by championing the use of the Collaborative Care Model in Medicaid Managed Care Organizations. Advocated successfully for the passage of legislation to advance community-partnered school behavioral health programs, and to protect services and funding for youth with behavioral health needs. Successfully amended a broad criminal justice reform initiative to ensure that savings gleaned from the effort will be reinvested into community behavioral health supports.


Led the Behavioral Health Coalition in an advocacy campaign to “Keep the Door Open,” successfully reversing more than $20 million in budget cuts to public mental health and substance use disorder services. Published a study highlighting serious concerns related to the accuracy and adequacy of commercial health insurers’ psychiatric networks. Championed legislation establishing a task force to study and address maternal mental health needs across the state. Took on an expanded substance use disorder advocacy role, supporting successful efforts to expand overdose prevention initiatives and improve the effectiveness of Maryland’s Good Samaritan law. Organized a first-of-its-kind Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) train-the-trainer program, building an expertise and capacity that has allowed for more regional and local CIT training.


Continued through reintroduction of the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Safety Net Act to raise awareness about unmet needs in a variety of areas, including services for children and older adults, housing and reentry needs, and mental health literacy. Played a key role in the enactment of legislation merging the state’s Mental Hygiene Administration and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration into a single Behavioral Health Administration. Advocated successfully to ensure consumer representation in the process to implement a Community Integrated Medical Home Program. Raised critical issues related to the availability of mental health services in schools; supported successful legislation to eliminate barriers to treatment by regulating the insurer step therapy process; and addressed serious access-to-care issues by supporting legislation expanding coverage to all Medicaid recipients for healthcare services delivered via telemedicine.


Worked with the Maryland Mental Health Coalition to address longstanding, unmet service needs through introduction of the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Safety Net Act. Achieved a supplemental budget appropriation that included additional funding for Safety Net priorities, including crisis services, Mental Health First Aid and evidence-based programming. Collaborated with addictions advocates to secure passage of legislation making it easier for consumers to enforce their rights under the federal parity law and for the state to better ensure carrier compliance. Fought to ensure balance during policy debates about gun ownership. Remained active in efforts to implement the federal Affordable Care Act and advocated successfully for amendments to improve continuity of care and oversight. Supported a departmental recommendation to combine treatment for specialty mental health and substance use disorder services under the management of a single risk-based administrative services organization.


Advocated successfully for the restoration of mental health funding through a supplemental budget appropriation and the rejection of millions of dollars in proposed legislative cuts to the public mental health system. Secured passage of legislation to increase transparency in the process by which Medicaid Managed Care Organizations report Medical Loss Ratios. Amended Health Benefit Exchange legislation in an effort to require that qualified health plans demonstrate parity compliance. Supported successful efforts to enhance Maryland’s community college tuition exemption for individuals with disabilities; require the availability of mental health support services for employees of state facilities who are affected by traumatic events; expand the role of the Cultural Linguistic Health Care Provider Competency Program; expand coverage for services delivered through telemedicine; extend tax credits for employers who hire people with disabilities; and prevent recidivism by eliminating barriers to the successful reentry of ex-offenders. Continued involvement in all efforts related to the integration of public behavioral health services and healthcare reform.