It is a step in the right direction when a trained law enforcement officer can get someone undergoing a severe psychiatric crisis to the hospital without incident ["A More Sensitive Approach to Policing the Mentally Ill," Metro, June 6]. But all the training in the world won't change the fact that Maryland's law helps to create the encounters between police and people with severe mental illnesses in the first place.
Unlike the laws of 41 other states, Maryland law does not allow court-ordered outpatient treatment for individuals who have received emergency psychiatric help. It's either hospitalization or release to the community with no mandatory treatment. For some, this lack of required follow-up results in encounters with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. For others, it results in suicide, homelessness and victimization.
As Maryland continues to close state hospital beds and more people with severe mental illnesses live in the community, the state needs to give courts the option to order someone to stay in treatment even when he or she is back home. That way, after a well-trained officer successfully transports someone to the hospital unharmed, the person can get long-term treatment and support.
Senior Legislative & Policy Counsel
Treatment Advocacy Center