State Health Officials Held in Contempt Over Psych Beds

A continued lack of available beds in State psychiatric hospitals has individuals court ordered to treatment stuck waiting in local jails until beds open, and has resulted in a judge holding State officials in contempt of court for failing to adequately address the crisis.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Retired Judge Gale Rasin ruled Thursday that acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader and his top staff had failed to follow court orders to place criminal defendants in state psychiatric hospitals. In some cases, Rasin said, mentally ill defendants have languished in jails for weeks waiting for a bed at a state hospital.

The issue of mental health beds for criminal defendants has been a thorny issue for the State. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Department of Health formed a stakeholder group in 2016 to analyze and make recommendations to remedy the lack of capacity at state mental hospitals. While some progress was made the backlog of available beds has persisted.

According to the Sun, the 42 page order that Judge Rasin wrote found that going back as far as 2012 state health officials have fallen short of heading warning and following through on action to expand the number of state hospital beds for criminal defendants. Consequently Judge Rasin is requiring a total of 40 new beds to be opened — 20 each in new admission units at the Clifton P. Perkins Hospital Center and at the Spring Grove Hospital Center — and full staffing of 20 beds recently added to the Clifton Center by December in order for the contempt order to be lifted.

This has been an important issue for county jails in Maryland and across the nation. The National Association of Counties (NACo) in partnership with the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation launched Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails in 2015. Since then over 365 counties have joined the movement.

For more information:

Judge holds Maryland officials in contempt, orders them to open dozens of psychiatric beds (The Baltimore Sun)

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Mental Health Beds Backlog Reduced, Work Remains

Secretary Admits Mistake, Workgroup Develops Recommendations To Fix It

DHMH Workgroup Seeks to Remedy Lack of Criminal Justice Mental Health Beds

Report: Poor, Addicted and Mentally Ill Overcrowd Local Jails