Summer Savings! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
Readers Respond
News Opinion Readers Respond

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

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

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Obama rewards criminals and stiffs law-abiding Americans

    Obama rewards criminals and stiffs law-abiding Americans

    President Barack Obama's effort to reward criminals by offering them Pell Grants is yet another reason why this country is going backward and is completely out of control! ("Obama Cabinet officials in Jessup to announce Pell grants for inmates," July 31.)

  • Is Verizon's anti-Baltimore bias legal?

    Is Verizon's anti-Baltimore bias legal?

    Verizon has persistently refused to bring FiOS to Baltimore, despite providing service to surrounding suburbs ("Baltimore remains a fiber desert,http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-broadband-letter-20150730-story.html July 30). If broadband service now comes under the...

  • Baltimore must build something positive in the jail's place

    Baltimore must build something positive in the jail's place

    Gov. Larry Hogan's decision to close the Baltimore City jail was bold, but a good one ("Closing Baltimore's jail," Aug. 1).

  • Divert jail savings to rehabilitation programs

    Divert jail savings to rehabilitation programs

    While I was disappointed that Gov. Larry Hogan did not reach out to those of us who serve on the legislative commission dealing with the Baltimore City Detention Center or with me as the state senator who represents the area where the jail is located, I along with the residents of East Baltimore...

  • Prison deters crime — just look at Baltimore

    Prison deters crime — just look at Baltimore

    The July 30 issue of The Sun presents an awkward picture. One article indicates that the average population of the Baltimore City Detention Center dropped 48 percent in Baltimore and applauds that as a positive development. Yet another article in the same edition carries the scary title: "Baltimore...

  • Ocean City overreaches on boardwalk performance restrictions

    Ocean City overreaches on boardwalk performance restrictions

    As a boardwalk performer, I understand the need for safeguards to enhance the experience of tourists visiting Ocean City. But new regulations on boardwalk performances are once again doomed to failure, and please allow me to explain why ("New rules for performers on Ocean City boardwalk," June...

Comments
Loading
90°