General Assembly Passes Bill to Expedite Inmate Mental Illness Placements

The General Assembly has passed a bill that provides an accelerated process for placing defendants unable to stand trial because of serious mental illness into treatment instead of being held in jail.

MACo supported HB 111, sponsored by Delegate Erek Barron, as it addressed the crucial issue of lack of treatment beds and prompt placement of defendants court-ordered into treatment due to serious mental illness. These defendants are often held in county jails awaiting a treatment bed — an unfortunate and unacceptable situation that is bad for the defendants in need of treatment and problematic for the jails.

As passed by the General Assembly, the bill expands the types of facilities the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) may place an individual for treatment, recognizing the efforts the MDH has made to contract with hospitals and other private facilities for beds. Additionally instead of the court specifying a placement date, it sets an “as soon as possible, but no later than 10 days” time frame for placement. Finally, sanctions are limited to any that are reasonably designed to compel compliance, including reimbursement to the jails for holding a defendant beyond 10 days.

From The Baltimore Sun :

The 10-day requirement represents a compromise between proponents of the bill and the department. Barron’s original bill called for immediate admission once ordered by a judge.

Barron, a Prince George’s County Democrat, called the bill’s passage “a significant step toward relieving a longstanding issue of healthcare treatment, due process and public safety.”

“I’m hopeful Maryland is now trending towards being a national model for the decriminalization of mental illness,” he said.

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

For more information:

Maryland legislature OKs deadline for state-run psychiatric hospitals to admit patients from jails (The Baltimore Sun)

Bill Fast-Tracking Inmate Psych Bed Placements on the Move (Conduit Street)

Accelerate Placement of Defendants With Mental Illness (Conduit Street)