Mental Health Association of Maryland

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News Release: MHAMD Honors Former Maryland State Senators Kasemeyer and Middleton, Delegate Sample-Hughes, Behavioral Health Administration’s Merrick at 2019 Legislative Briefing


For Immediate Release
February 1, 2019

 MHAMD Honors Former Maryland State Senators Kasemeyer and Middleton, Delegate Sample-Hughes,  Behavioral Health Administration’s Merrick at 2019 Legislative Briefing

Author and Mental Health Advocate Sue Klebold to Deliver Keynote; MD Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford to Speak on Hogan Administration’s Behavioral Health Priorities

Lutherville, Md. — The Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD) honors the state’s champions of behavioral health and offers an overview of its legislative priorities at its 2019 Legislative Briefing and Reception to be held on February 5 in Annapolis. (more…)

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Talking to your child about the St Mary’s school shooting


The nation’s attention is now focused on Maryland as the home of the most recent school shooting. Today, at least three students were injured at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County.

As the story continues to evolve in the media, parents are faced with the difficult decision of what to say to our kids.

The reality is that there is no one way to have this conversation and we don’t always even have to have the conversation. What we say, when we say it and how we say it depends on our child’s age, maturity level and temperament. And, as parents, we also have to think about what our child may hear from the news, from older siblings or neighbors, and from their friends.

Most national experts agree that children under 8 should be shielded from the story unless they are directly impacted by it or exposed to the aftermath. Here are a few thoughts about addressing the topic with older students.

  • First, process your own emotions before you talk with your child. As a parent, this is scary and we may feel vulnerable, angry or have other strong reactions.
  • Plan what you want to say to your child, thinking specifically about what you want them to take away from the conversation.
  • Reassure your child by highlighting what the school and the people in the school do to keep students safe. As details unfold, consider telling the stories of the heroes.
  • Address images as well as words if your child has seen photos or video in news coverage. Balance the scary photos with positive images of safety officers, school officials and other heroes who help keep students safe.
  • For elementary school students, keep the story brief — just a sentence or two about what happened — and then take your cues from your child’s questions. Note your child may ask questions right away, or may come back to you after having some time to think about what they’ve learned.
  • For middle and high school students, start by asking what they’ve already heard. In today’s quick news and social media culture, odds are that they’ve already heard about the situation. Let them share their thoughts and feelings with you, and use the conversation as an opportunity to share your values and thoughts on the topic. And, consider discussing potential solutions or actions. You may even want to connect the conversation to the “walk outs” and “step ups” that many students participated in or heard about earlier this month.
  • Recognize that students of all ages will process the news in their own way and in their own time. A student who is already anxious, who worries about school or who has experienced trauma may feel greater anxiety, need more time to talk and require extra reassurance about their own safety.

Sadly, our nation’s recent history of school shootings have led to the development of extensive guides on how to talk to children and youth about school violence. Here are a few additional resources to guide your conversation including information developed by Maryland’s Children’s Mental Health Matters Campaign*:

CMHM Fact Sheet on Wellbeing & Resiliency

CMHM Fact Sheet on Trauma

CHMH Fact Sheet on Traumas (Spanish)

At the end of the day, no one knows your child better than you. Review the resources that are out there, make your own decision and do what’s best for your child.


*The Children’s Mental Health Matters! Campaign is a collaboration of the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD) and the Maryland Coalition of Families (MCF) supported by the Maryland Department of Health – Behavioral Health Administration. The Campaign goal, with partners across the state, is to raise public awareness of the importance of children’s mental health. For more information, please visit

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5 ways you can raise awareness during National Suicide Prevention Week


This week, September 5-11, individuals and organizations are sharing personal stories, information and resources on social media for National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in Maryland and the numbers have increased in recent years. What can you do to raise awareness during National Suicide Prevention Week? Here are five simple actions that you can take now to spread the word about suicide prevention.

Maryland Facts National Suicide Prevention Week

Join the National Suicide Prevention Week conversation on social media

It’s easy to share information and meaningful stories during National Suicide Prevention Week. Consider sharing your personal story about the impact of suicide or re-post an infographic like the ones you can find at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP). And don’t forget to use any of the campaign hashtags: #NSPW16, #StopSuicide, #BeThe1To or a hashtag for each day of the week.

Download the “There is Hope” App

Keep a quick reference on the risk factors and warning signs for suicide as well as tips on how to talk with someone who may be considering suicide with the “There is Hope” app. There’s even a suicide risk self-assessment. There is Hope was just released in Maryland during the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s kickoff event for National Suicide Prevention Week. Download “There is Hope” and share with friends or family.

Get involved locally

Register for an event in your community. Consider signing up for a Mental Health First Aid® course or one of the many local Out of the Darkness walks. Learn more about Mental Health First Aid in Maryland here.

Tune in to the World Suicide Prevention Day Twitter Chat

On Friday, September 9, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will lead into World Suicide Prevention Day with a Twitter Chat. Tune into this event, cosponsored by several national organizations such as Mental Health America, The Jed Foundation and Active Minds. Join the discussion using the hashtag #BeThe1To.

Take or share MHAMD’s free mental health screening

MHAMD offers a free, anonymous and confidential mental health screening for individuals who are concerned that they may be experiencing mental health complications. Brief screenings are a quick way to determine whether you or someone you care about should connect with a mental health professional. MHAMD recently updated the screening with more options and availability in Spanish. Take the screening or share the link with those you care about.

Posted in: Advocacy & Public Policy, Community Education & Training

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Network Adequacy Series, Part IV: We need your help to ensure strong insurance networks


Insurance Info

On April 26, 2016, Governor Hogan signed HB1318-Health Benefit Plans-Network Access Standards and Provider Network Directories into law. This landmark legislation based on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Network Adequacy Model Act will dramatically improve insured Marylanders’ ability to use their health insurance to access care. The legislation enables the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) to enforce network adequacy requirements. The MIA will promulgate and enforce regulations with real standards, such as limits on travel requirements and wait times for appointments. The legislation also requires the insurance carriers to improve the accuracy of the directories – no longer should there be retired doctors or wrong numbers in the online directories members use to make appointments. The insurers must also provide information to members about how they can request to see an out of network provider at the same out of pocket cost as an in-network doctor, allowing them more timely and affordable appointments.

Maryland advocates, including MHAMD, worked tirelessly through the Maryland General Assembly session to ensure the passage of this legislation, but our work isn’t over. The MIA has begun the work of drafting regulations, holding monthly hearings to allow stakeholders to provide feedback on the suggested topics. The first hearing on June 9, 2016 focused on other state and federal standards that Maryland could consider adopting. MHAMD and other consumer advocates pressed the MIA to strongly consider the Medicare Advantage standards and to look at the states that have most recently updated their standards. These states have added maximum wait times that members can be expected to wait for appointments for primary and specialty care providers. The next meeting will be held July 14, 2016, and will focus on a topic of much importance to behavioral health consumers: geographic accessibility of specialty providers.

We need your help! As we draft our comments and testify at each hearing to ensure strong regulations are adopted, we need your stories! Please contact us with any examples of having difficulty finding a behavioral health provider who accepts your insurance and is available for a timely appointment. We would love to have you share them with the MIA at the hearing, but if you aren’t able to attend, we can share them on your behalf. It is important that the Commissioner and the MIA staff hear how inadequate networks have affected you and your family.

Network Adequacy Series Posts

Network Adequacy Series, Part III: What Maryland advocates are doing

Network Adequacy Series, Part II: What are state and federal regulators doing about it?

Network Adequacy Series, Part I: What is all the fuss?

Posted in: Advocacy & Public Policy, Services Oversight

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New consumer advocate finds her voice


A guest post from consumer advocate Jessica S.: 

As a consumer of behavioral health services for many years, it was not until I pursued specialty treatment for PTSD that I learned the depth of the injustice to behavioral health consumers done by insurance companies. It was an accepted norm that the therapy I needed would not be covered by my insurance because the network of providers available to me through my insurance company was laughably inadequate.

Upon starting treatment with my new provider I was encouraged to file for reimbursement with my insurance company and informed of my rights as a consumer to have mental health covered the same way physical health is. I began filing my claims and was denied any reimbursement by my insurance company due to a rule they were enforcing only for consumers – a requirement that all claims had to be filed within 90 days of service. The claims filing system is burdensome, so I had been saving my claims to file at one time rather than take on this tedious process. Devastated by this outright refusal to acknowledge my treatment costs, I contacted the Maryland Parity Project who helped me figure out who I needed to contact and what I needed to do to get my money. It took a long time, and it was not easy. I had to involve the Attorney General’s office and the Maryland Insurance Administration. The Health Education and Advocacy Unit of the Attorney General’s office took my complaint seriously and agreed that the insurance company was violating my rights. They were able to get the insurance to waive the 90-day requirement and after 5 months I received 1/5 of what I had paid out. It was so low due to insurance low reimbursement rates. What happened next changed my life in more ways than I have fully processed. I was asked to testify (share my story) in front of the Maryland State Legislature about my experience and the need for legislative action to prevent insurance companies from imposing such an unfair standard onto consumers.

I am a very private person, and it scared me to think about so publicly sharing that I have suffered from PTSD. I knew it was the right thing to do and that the cause was greater than my desire to stay private. Standing up for myself and sharing what I had been through just to get my insurance provider to do what they were supposed to do was so empowering. One of the most important lessons that I’ve taken with me is just that: stand up for yourself. No matter how tedious and frustrating or how the odds aren’t in your favor. I kept going with this issue and realized I was involved in something much bigger than just me. I learned that battles like this take time, and all I really had to do was not give up. They depend on people giving up and sadly many do because the barriers put in place to keep consumers from accessing care are traumatizing. After my testimony, my insurance provider decided they should reimburse me fully due to the fact that they do not have any providers within their network who could provide me with the treatment I needed (and because I called them out publicly for their despicable treatment of consumers). After 10 months, I finally received FULL reimbursement with interest.

At times I feel saddened and angry that I had to sacrifice my privacy in order to get coverage for my treatment. Not only did I have to stand before a group of legislators, but I also was later informed that many other people had access to my claims information. I feel that my privacy was severely compromised by my insurance provider. I feel so passionate about what I went through and continue to feel outraged for myself and for all suffering from mental health issues that I am continuing to speak out and work with the Mental Health Association of Maryland on addressing these issues. I am still in treatment and will have to file claims again if I want to be reimbursed for my treatment costs.

For everyone in treatment for a mental health condition please know that your voice matters. Please speak up and utilize the resources that are available to help you. Find your voice and hold insurance companies accountable for their continued discriminatory behavior towards consumers with mental health disorders.

If you are interested in getting involved in advocacy or education, sign up for MHAMD’s Citizen Action Team. To commit to five minutes of change-making advocacy per week, join the Citizen Action Team’s Commit2Five campaign. 

Posted in: Advocacy & Public Policy, Services Oversight

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Maryland breaks the ice about stigma


Last month, six individuals left California on a 5 million-step cross-country marathon called The IceBreaker Run to start a dialogue about the barriers that exist between mental illness and mental health. The effort garnered national attention, including news coverage from CNN. The runners finished last week at the Mental Health America conference in Alexandria, Virginia, but their message has inspired a conversation here in Maryland about the importance of challenging stigma by starting tough dialogues about mental health.

The six Icebreaker runners spoke during a panel at the  Mental Health America conference in Alexandria June 9.

The six Icebreaker runners spoke during a panel at the
Mental Health America conference in Alexandria June 9.

MHAMD challenged Marylanders and organizations to join the movement to eradicate stigma and commit to talking about mental health by running or walking a mile before June 9, the last day of the IceBreaker Run. We received an outpouring of support for the message of “breaking the ice” about mental health, and submissions from participants sharing how they contributed to the movement.

Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems, Inc.’s staff walked a mile to eliminate stigma around mental health, and shared their commitment to living each day stigma-free:

 Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems Staff Icebreaker


Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems staff joined the one mile walk movement to eradicate stigma related to mental health! Our staff is always committed to educating the community about mental health and addictions by talking openly, offering guidance, and by looking at the person, not the illness. We advocate for consumers everywhere possible, hoping to empower them and help get them where they need to be. We want to break down the stigma associated with mental health by encouraging equality, being conscious of our language, and offering resources. We partner often with our local Mental Health Association and other advocacy organizations to host community events to spread the word of wellness. We pledge to live each day stigma free and hope others will do the same.

In another challenge against stigma, Sheppard Pratt Health System’s Dr. Thomas Franklin, medical director of The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt, will be racing the 140.6 miles of the July 24 Ironman Lake Placid triathlon. His goals are to fight stigma, to show people that are suffering that treatment works, and to raise money for the Sheppard Pratt Patient Care Fund so that no one has to go without the treatment they need. Read more about his experience here.


With a strong, collective conversation about how mental health impacts our lives and the lives of our loved ones, Maryland can continue working toward a stigma-free environment for those living with mental health conditions.

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Join MHAMD’s volunteer Citizen Action Team


9-23-15 Citizen Action Team logo FNL PMS 405c 518c


Want to learn more about behavioral health topics? Interested in volunteering with the Mental Health Association of Maryland? Join the Citizen Action Team!

The Citizen Action Team brings together consumers, providers, advocates, and passionate individuals to help those living with mental illness and addiction pursue fulfilling lives. With the Citizen Action Team, you will have the opportunity to learn about behavioral health topics, attend trainings, educate communities, and volunteer with MHAMD. Be sure to join the Commit2Five campaign, a branch within the Citizen Action Team, to receive weekly emails with 5-minute change-making advocacy activities.

On April 30, 2016 we held our first orientation of 2016. We are excited to add five newly trained volunteers to the team. This new group learned about MHAMD programs and participated in a lively discussion about how they wanted to spend their volunteer time. Everyone had a great time at the mock health fair and can’t wait to staff their first one!

The beauty in joining the Citizen Action Team is that you choose educational and volunteer opportunities that spark your interest and highlight your strengths; you can dedicate as little or as much time as your schedule will allow. Current volunteers conduct research, assist with material development and social media, plan and attend community events, and participate in advocacy efforts.

We will hold another volunteer orientation in June, more details to come. Sign up for the Citizen Action Team soon!

Posted in: Community Education & Training, Community Engagement

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Breaking the ice and starting the conversation about mental health



Earlier this week, six runners left California on the IceBreaker Run. These six runners will run a marathon each day as they travel from California to Virginia, stopping along the way to start community conversations about mental health. The six runners have diverse backgrounds and experiences, but each one has had their life touched by mental illness. Their goal is to “break the ice” and encourage others to feel comfortable enough to begin tough conversations about mental health and illness. The run will end on June 9, 2016 at the Mental Health America conference in Alexandria.

We are “breaking the ice” in Maryland in many ways. On May 19, 2016 the Maryland Coalition for Mental Health Awareness will present their fourth annual art event. This year’s theme: Walk in My Shoes: Raising Mental Health Awareness through Art asks participants to experience the artwork of individuals who are in recovery from mental illness and addiction. The event is free and open to the public from 1-5 p.m. in the 3rd floor banquet room of the American Visionary Art Museum. Each year the event gives attendees the opportunity to meet the artists and individuals in recovery and witness that treatment works and recovery is possible.

We know that not everyone can attend the art event or participate in a cross-country run, but most of us can walk or run a mile at our own pace on our own schedule. You can join the movement to eradicate stigma and commit to talking about mental health and its impact on you, family, friends or community by running or walking one mile between now and June 9, 2016. While you are running or walking, think about a five-minute, stigma-busting activity that you can commit to or who in your life you can engage in conversations or advocacy related to mental health.

We would like to highlight MHAMD and Citizen Action Team members who participate in the virtual walk/run on our MHAMD Perspectives blog and via social media. Please take a photo of you or your group before, during, or after your run with one of the downloadable signs or a sign you have made yourself and email it to us (using the subject, “Icebreaker”) with a short statement about what five-minute activity you have committed to or who you plan to engage in a conversation with about mental health. You can also share your photos on social media using #mentalhealthmatters or #weruntobreaktheice.

Commit2Five Sign

Children’s Mental Health Matters! Sign

We are so excited to join Mental Health America, the Herron Project and the IceBreaker team in this landmark conversation starter. Join us!

Update: In an effort to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, Sheppard Pratt Health System’s Dr. Thomas Franklin, medical director of The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt, wrote an inspiring blog post sharing his battle with depression. He will be racing the 140.6 miles of the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon to fight stigma, to show people that are suffering that treatment works, and to raise money for the Sheppard Pratt Patient Care Fund so that no one has to go without the treatment they need. Read more >>

For questions, contact:

Adrienne Ellis
Director, Healthcare Reform and Community Engagement
Mental Health Association of Maryland
443-901-1550 x206

Posted in: Advocacy & Public Policy, Community Engagement

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Hundreds Rally on Lawyer’s Mall to “Keep the Door Open!”




Hundreds rally on Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis to “Keep The Door Open”!

More than 500 consumers, family members and advocates gathered in Annapolis February 25 at the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition’s Keep the Door Open Rally to appeal for increased access to behavioral health services for those living with mental health and substance use disorders.

Resolute voices echoed from Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis, repeating the mantra “Everybody In, Nobody Out.”

A series of speakers, including State Senators Guy Guzzone, Catherine Pugh, and Mac Middleton, and State Delegates Antonio Hayes, Sandy Rosenberg, Eric Luedtke and Bonnie Cullison, called on the Maryland General Assembly to pass the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition’s legislative platform and the Keep the Door Open Act (SB497/HB595). The bill will increase access to behavioral health care by ensuring that community-based providers have reliable and stable support in Maryland’s budget.

The issue:

Over one million Marylander’s live with a mental health or substance use disorder, and more than 180,000 use and depend on the state’s public behavioral health system. Community behavioral health providers offer a range of services, including traditional outpatient services, mobile treatment, crisis services, withdrawal management, rehabilitation, residential treatment, partial hospitalization programs and housing. The number of people using the state public behavioral health system has increased 65 percent since 2008. Despite the demand, funding for these services has stagnated, and many providers are in danger of shutting their doors or cutting back their services.

Keeping the Door Open:

The Keep the Door Open Act, sponsored by Senator Guy Guzzone and Delegate Antonio Hayes, indexes provider rates to the cost of medical inflation. These rates have seen only six modest increases in the last 20 years. The bill will help to attract and retain qualified licensed professionals and direct care workers by maintaining fair and stable provider rates, and ensure stability for community-based clinics so they can continue providing critical services.

Help the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition make the final push to pass the Keep the Door Open Act by contacting your legislator today!


Sign up for MHAMD’s Legislative Network to stay up to date on critical legislation from the 2016 Legislative Session.

Learn more about the act here. Read more about the Keep the Door Open MD campaign here.


Posted in: Advocacy & Public Policy

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