Decriminalizing Behavioral Health

Marcella Holloman, Lauren Young & Thomas Hicks

(Sponsored by College of Behavioral & Social Sciences)

2021 Disability Summit
April 12, 2021 – 2:10 PM-3:30 PM


Our over-policing and the excessive criminalization of people in behavioral health crisis will be related to our discriminatory and segregationist history, data, and shared stories. The prevalence of ugly laws, institutionalization, eugenics and the development of policing will be briefly discussed to identify how our discriminatory legacy relates to the criminalization of people with disabilities. Data will be shared to demonstrate the disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities and of color in our carceral system, our local state hospitals and in police fatalities. Two individuals will share their traumatic encounters with law enforcement in Baltimore City when they or their loved one contacted 911 for help with a mental health crisis. In Baltimore, such calls automatically result in a police response. Their stories are told through a video they helped to create. The session will also address local advocacy efforts for public health services that remove law enforcement and use a human rights framework and emphasizes peer participation, non-discrimination, accessibility, accountability, consent and non-coercion.

YouTube video was shown during the session


Marcella Holloman (she/her)

Ms. Holloman is a community activist and former psychiatric hospital aid. She lost her son to 4 police violence after she called 911 for assistance to help transport her son to a hospital. She is committed to reforming 911 practices, ending police intervention during behavioral health crisis, and recognizing the value and human rights of persons with disabilities.

Lauren Young (she/her)


Ms. Young is an attorney with Disability Rights Maryland, the state’s federally mandated Protection and Advocacy Agency. She works with and on behalf of individuals with disabilities and has a strong interest in decriminalizing disability and using law to redress segregation and the inequities we create through discrimination and oppression.

Thomas Hicks (he/him)

Mr. Hicks is a Peer Recovery professional for a crisis center in Baltimore. He was Executive Director for Helping Other People through Empowerment Inc., (H.O.P.E.) a consumer run wellness and recovery peer-support program, offering a stigma free environment to individuals with behavioral health needs. H.O.P.E services include life skills training, phone and internet use, meals, shower and laundry facilities, group activities and a serenity room, referrals to mental health and substance use treatment. Mr. Hicks is active in several community activities and is the recipient of numerous awards.