Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
NewsOpinionReaders Respond

Seriously mentally ill people can't wait another year for lawmakers to change the standard for involuntary commitments

Family

Regarding your recent editorial on making it easier for families to commit a mentally ill relative to a mental institution against their will, Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and some state delegates apparently are missing the urgent need to clarify the state's civil commitment standards ("The tricky question of involuntary commitment," April 6).

Many relatives of individuals with serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, recently testified about the consequences of the denying timely treatment under the current law. Those consequences include homicide, suicide, homelessness, job loss and permanent brain damage. The Maryland Senate understood this and passed SB 1040 unanimously.

The editorial showed a misunderstanding of severe mental illness with psychosis. It is an illness characterized by confused and irrational thoughts, incoherent speech and delusions that rob individuals of their ability to function in the world.

For those who are unable to recognize that they very ill, involuntary hospitalization and treatment can be the only way to restore rational thought and their ability to exercise their civil liberties.

The DHMH arguments are contradictory and misleading. It is the current law, which does not define the concept of "dangerousness" to self or others, that is vague and lacking in clear guidelines. The families' testimony showed that it is interpreted very differently by police, ER physicians and judges across the state.

The proposed language retains the current commitment criteria that treatment be in the least restrictive setting, as well as protection of a patient's civil liberties by a public defender and judicial review. This prevents the commitment of those that do not need hospitalization.

The Sun editorial states that the proposed legislation has the "risk of creating more problems than it solves." Given that 46 other states have substantially similar language, more consideration should be given to the certainty that the current law will result this year in more needless deaths, incarcerations, and homelessness.

It is easy for to say the problem can be solved next year. Some of the families who testified — like the one whose son is very ill, homeless and tried to hire a contract killer — fear their relative may not be around next year when they testify.

DHMH needs to work closely with the supporters of SB 1040 to ensure that yet another year of needless tragedies does not occur.

Arlene Saks-Martin, Randallstown

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts
  • Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
    Related Content
    Family
    • Brown's pre-K promises don't add up
      Brown's pre-K promises don't add up

      Throughout the last two months, the Anthony Brown campaign has accused Larry Hogan of being "extreme" and "dangerous" in regard to his views on two volatile issues — a woman's right to choose and the regulation of assault weapons. Time and again, in a variety of...

    • Balto. Co. wrong on animal shelter photos
      Balto. Co. wrong on animal shelter photos

      The response by Don Mohler, chief of staff for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, to the ACLU's lawsuit concerning photography at the Baltimore County animal shelter is disingenuous at best ("ACLU says Balto. Co. has squelched criticism of animal shelter," Oct. 19).

    • Low hiring standards lead to police brutality
      Low hiring standards lead to police brutality

      I've lived in and around Baltimore for all of my 73 years. My opinion on the problems with our police and fire departments lies with recruiting practices ("U.S. Dept. of Justice reveals plans to review Baltimore Police Dept.," Oct. 21). As a young man I never heard of the...

    • Hogan should learn from Connie Morella
      Hogan should learn from Connie Morella

      Tom Schaller's Oct. 20 column, "The Connie Morella effect," was most interesting. I knew Connie Morella well. She was an English professor at Montgomery College when I was teaching Political Science there. We continued our friendship over the years when she was in Congress and...

    • Moms want answers from Hogan on guns
      Moms want answers from Hogan on guns

      Despite gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan's public flip-flopping on guns and the Maryland Firearms Safety Act — he must have some of a stance on guns. He completed a questionnaire for National Rifle Association that earned him an "A-" rating from the Washington gun...

    • When it comes to political endorsements, voter beware
      When it comes to political endorsements, voter beware

      Some candidates rattle off their endorsements in lieu of their record or priorities. But just what/who do endorsements represent?

    Comments
    Loading