Time to Walk the Walk. One important but low visibility issue facing the 2018 Maryland General Assembly is the adequacy of treatment for the overlapping problems of mental illness and drug addiction. Today’s problems are a legacy of past policy failures. The 1960s deinstitutionalization movement closed mental hospitals in favor of the idea of community-based treatment. Read this letter to the editor by Clarence Stone.
Maryland Lawsuit Seeks Hospital Beds for Mentally Ill Inmates. A prominent law firm weighed in on Maryland’s forensic mental-health crisis this week, filing a lawsuit designed to compel the transfer of mentally ill defendants from jail cells to hospital beds.
“We are seeing our clients not getting treatment, and they’re not healthy,” Mary Pizzo, an attorney and mental-health specialist at Maryland’s Office of the Public Defender, said Friday. “A jail is not the place for them to be.” See the June 11, 2016 article in the Washington Post.
Statistics on Maryland Mental Health:
- The Treatment Advocacy Center estimates 16 percent with “serious mental illness” as the proportion of all Maryland inmates in state prisons and local detention centers. http://www.
treatmentadvocacycenter.org/ legal-resources/maryland ; also http://tacreports.org/ diversion-study
- Other studies suggest that inmates with “psychopathology” are twice as prevalent in solitary confinement and other “special units.” http://solitarywatch.com/wp-
content/uploads/2011/06/fact- sheet-psychological-effects- final.pdf
- The American Academy of Psychiatry reports a federal study that more than half of all U.S. prison and local detention center inmates have some “mental health problem” whether or not labeled “serious.” http://www.jaapl.org/content/
- However, in Maryland, it is clear there are insufficient resources available to provide treatment to all inmates that need it and the State Secretary of the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene admits that waiting times for treatment are getting longer. http://www.baltimoresun.com/
Hogan: More Beds for Mentally Ill Inmates is a Top Priority. The Washington Post (6/9/16) reports that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Thursday that he plans to work “very closely” with the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to reduce the state wait list for mentally ill inmates of local jails to receive treatment in the state’s psychiatric hospitals.
Hogan said the issue is the “No. 1 priority” of agency Secretary Van Mitchell, who has described the scarcity of psychiatric beds for inmates as a crisis. In early March, there were 49 inmates waiting to get into one of the state’s five forensic hospitals. In two months, that number increased by 71 percent to 84 inmates.
Mentally Ill in Maryland are Stuck in Jails. The Baltimore Sun reports (6/8/16) that “With psychiatric beds full, mentally ill in Maryland are stuck in jails.” “Dozens of mentally ill men and women who have been charged with crimes are languishing in jails across Maryland despite court orders to send them to state hospitals for evaluation and treatment.”
Mental-Health Crisis Ensnares Inmates, Judges, Jailers, and Hospitals. The Washington Post (6/7/2016) reports “The crisis at Maryland’s mental hospitals is playing out nationwide, putting pressure on jails and testing the patience of judges.
In 25 states surveyed this year by the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center based in Arlington, Va., 1,956 inmates were in local jails waiting for psychiatric hospital slots, leaving them in facilities that were not designed to meet their needs at what can be triple the cost of tending to other inmates.
“If you could design a system to treat these people as ineffectively and as expensively as possible, you’d use jails the way we do,” says the Treatment Advocacy Center’s executive director, John Snook.
NAMI. The Maryland chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that Maryland’s public mental health services are underfunded, adding to the burden of our criminal justice system.
Public Opinion. A 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center found that more than two-thirds of Americans say that the government should focus more on providing treatment for those who use illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine as opposed to incarcerating them.
Treatment or Incarceration? This study by the Justice Policy Institute presents National and State Findings on the Efficacy and Cost Savings of Drug Treatment Versus Imprisonment.