State’s Behavioral Health Budget Intended to Funnel People Away From Jails

Moore-Miller Administration intends to use FY24 Behavioral Health funding to solve ongoing issue of mental health patients inadvertently becoming inmates.

In a meeting with the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association on Tuesday, Acting Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health – Healthcare Systems, Bryan Mroz, gave an update on the status of court-ordered mental health transfers from local jails. Deputy Mroz reiterated that there is still a backlog of inmates that are required to be transferred from county detention facilities into the State’s hospital system. That number is in the range of 130 awaiting transfer, down from 161. In the meantime, local facilities continue to shoulder the financial cost of holding individuals with severe psychiatric needs longer than 10 days, when the state is intended to be the recipient of these patients.

Deputy Mroz closed the update on a positive note for correctional officers by expounding on the Moore-Miller administrations intentions to remedy this crisis. He shared that some of the behavioral health appropriations from the administrations approved FY24 budget are intended to bookend the needs of individuals before and after they interact with the criminal justice system. On the front end, services are intended to be bolstered to keep individuals who need behavioral health services from entering the detention centers at all. A number of diversion strategies were attempted during the 2023 legislative session but ultimately failed. An administration effort to tackle the problem could ultimately pick up some of the slack if the effort is made.

On the back end of the system, Deputy Mroz expressed they have a number of individuals requiring discharge from the state hospitals but they cannot be released without the appropriate care coordinated for when they arrive back in the community. FY24 behavioral health funding is intended to increase capacity for required services upon release. Moving patients out faster will expedite the process of bringing more patients in. No mention was made of the State’s intent to add more hospital beds, which have been experiencing shortages well before the pandemic.