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

Sun wrong on involuntary commitment bill

The Sun's April 5 editorial ("The tricky question of involuntary commitment") misses two critical points about the bill to clarify mental health civil commitment standards in Maryland, and it misstates another.

The bill's key component — making explicit that a person whose mental illness prevents him from meeting his basic survival needs of food, clothing and shelter is "dangerous to self" within the meaning of the law — goes unmentioned. It is hard to imagine a reasonable argument why such an individual would not need hospital care. And yet many who cannot function independently go untreated under the current Maryland law, simply because they do not appear violent or suicidal.

The editorial also fails to note that the language of the bill is identical in substance to the civil commitment laws of most other states. Maryland is being asked to catch up to the pack, not to venture into uncharted waters. If the bill really "risks creating more problems than it solves," wouldn't the opponents have horror stories to report from these other states? We have heard none.

Finally, the claim that the bill "would broaden the definition of dangerousness to cases in which … a person might become dangerous [but] doesn't exhibit serious symptoms at the time he is evaluated" conflates the very different questions of dangerousness and mental illness. The bill would certainly not permit the commitment of anyone who does not demonstrate severe mental illness and a need for treatment. But it would make clear that an actively delusional or psychotic person with a history of dangerous behavior should not be released on the grounds that he made no threats against anyone during his evaluation.

The Sun grants far too much deference to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's predictable resistance to change. That is the nature of bureaucracies, even well-intentioned ones. If the House of Delegates is guided instead by the merits of the arguments put forth, it will follow the Senate's unanimous lead and give Marylanders with untreated severe mental illness a chance to recover the lives they have lost.

Brian Stettin, Arlington, Va.

The writer is policy director of the Treatment Advocacy Center.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • How to make another round of Baltimore riots inconceivable

    How to make another round of Baltimore riots inconceivable

    The July 27th page 1 article, "For some city youths, police camp builds relationship" explained "... how city and public safety leaders are trying to reach, teach and connect with children in ... Baltimore" through two police summer camps, Girls Expecting More Success (GEMS) and Gang Resistance...

  • Smog plan puts profits ahead of health

    Smog plan puts profits ahead of health

    According to the air-quality chief for Maryland Department of the Environment, Gov. Larry Hogan is trying to strike a "delicate balance" by letting coal plants supply Maryland residents with electricity and pollution ("New Hogan smog plan fails to satisfy power plants, environmentalists," July...

  • Even at pony swim, safety counts

    Even at pony swim, safety counts

    Apparently, safety issues are disregarded in the annual Chincoteague pony swim. In the photograph on The Sun's front page, the boat appears to be overloaded and no one is wearing a lifejacket ("Viewers brave muck, mosquitoes to see 90th Chincoteague Pony Swim," July 29).

  • Hogan right to close the city jail

    Hogan right to close the city jail

    The Baltimore City Detention Center has been not only a blight to the city but also the state of Maryland for eons ("Hogan closes city jail," July 31) . I applaud Gov. Larry Hogan for having the fortitude to do something the previous administration did not.

  • ISIS not a byproduct of carbon dioxide

    ISIS not a byproduct of carbon dioxide

    One can expect former Gov. Martin O'Malley to develop ludicrous postulates to garner the support of the radical left. The Sun may support Mr. O'Malley's bid for the presidency, but to promote a hypothesis that ISIS is an outcome of global warming is beyond the pale of credibility ("ISIS and climate...

  • How Baltimore might rise

    How Baltimore might rise

    As a longtime activist of Baltimore, I am tired of the same old, same old. I keep asking myself, "What keeps me here?" Will the racist and classist ways we rebuild our cities continue with a public transcript of "gentrification benefits everyone" even while rents continue to increase, pushing black...

Comments
Loading
81°