Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
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

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts
  • Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
    Related Content
    • Who cares what the CIA does to terrorists?
      Who cares what the CIA does to terrorists?

      Am I living in the Twilight Zone? It sure seem so when I read some of the liberal nonsense being regurgitated in The Sun concerning the Senate Democrats' release of their CIA report on torture ("Holding the CIA to account," Dec. 9).

    • What's the bang for our health exchange buck?
      What's the bang for our health exchange buck?

      The article, "Health exchange enrolls over 100,000 people" (Dec. 17), was informative, and I hope reporter Meredith Cohn has a follow up.

    • Marching for McKenzie
      Marching for McKenzie

      Here's a thought: Why don't the people who believe there's social injustice and have the time to demonstrate hold a march on the 3600 block of Old York Road to protest the neighbors who aren't coming forth to identify those who shot and killed 3-year-old McKenzie Elliott earlier this year...

    • Taliban misrepresents Islam
      Taliban misrepresents Islam

      What possible crime could a young student have committed that he or she deserves death? Can't think of any, right? This is what was going through the minds of horror stricken parents in Peshawar, Pakistan ("Horror in Peshawar," Dec. 16).

    • In Md., deficits are nothing new
      In Md., deficits are nothing new

      "Somewhere along the way, as Maryland's revenue picture went from bad to worse, a scary term entered the Annapolis lexicon: the 'structural deficit.'" So said The Baltimore Sun on February 9, 2003 as then-Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. proposed a plan to wipe out a $2 billion dollar shortfall...

    • Md. leaders protect funds for bay cleanup
      Md. leaders protect funds for bay cleanup

      Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, along with Rep. Steny Hoyer, deserve our thanks for securing funding in the recent omnibus appropriations bill to keep Maryland on track to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams ("For better or worse, spending bill passes," Dec. 15).

    Comments
    Loading