Maryland Needs to Modernize Its Mental Health Laws
(Oct. 31, 2013) Two letters in this week’s Baltimore Sun are calling for better treatment options for people who don’t recognize they are sick – a category that includes about half of those suffering with the most severe mental illnesses.
“Imagine you have a 24-year-old daughter with schizophrenia, delusional, living on the street, eating out of garbage cans and hearing voices telling her not to trust you or anyone else,” writes Arlene Saks-Martin in a call for assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) in Maryland (“Helping Maryland's mentally ill,” Oct. 30).
“She denies wanting to hurt anyone or herself so for years you cannot get treatment for her. Although she is gravely disabled, police and doctors have told you she does not meet the ‘dangerousness’ standard for involuntary hospitalization. Her teeth are falling out, her body has sores and she is a victim of crime, even rape. Can you honestly tell me she knows or cares or can exercise her civil rights?”
Kathleen Branch, the mother of an adult child with mental illness who is all too familiar with the shortfalls in the Maryland treatment laws, also weighs in. “It is critical for lawmakers to know that many of us desperately want to get a loved one evaluated and potentially hospitalized before something worse happens, but the laws stand in our way,” she writes (“Laws surrounding mental illness make it harder for victims to get treatment,” Oct. 30).
Even though Maryland is one of the more well-resourced mental health systems in the country, the system exists largely for those who recognize they are ill and can voluntarily seek services.
The state is one of only five that remain without a law providing for mandatory outpatient treatment, and it has a high threshold for providing mandatory treatment in a hospital. If the state were to modernize its civil commitment laws to provide for court-ordered outpatient treatment and lower its threshold for involuntary hospitalization, those who are too ill to recognize it would be more likely to receive services.
“It is up to society — you and me — to rescue those with anosognosia by assuring they get timely, extended treatment to enable recovery,” urges Saks.
- About Us
- Legal Resources
- Get Help