Schrader, other Maryland health officials appeal contempt finding

Acting Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader and five other department officials will appeal a Baltimore judge’s decision to hold them in civil contempt of court over the state’s failure to provide enough psychiatric hospital beds for committed defendants.

Christine Tobar, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, said Friday the decision was made this week but the appeal has not yet been filed with the Court of Special Appeals.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Gale Rasin held the officials in contempt as part of a dispute between the judiciary and the Maryland Department of Health over a shortage of beds for defendants who are found incompetent to stand trial or not criminally responsible for their actions.

She found the officials had not complied with previous court orders.

When beds cannot be found for people judges have committed to state hospitals, the defendants typically languish in jail without the level of treatment they can receive in a medical setting. Rasin ordered the officials to take steps to quickly add dozens of beds at the hospitals. She gave them a deadline of Dec. 31.

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