Bill To Set Up Outpatient Mental Illness Treatment Center In Frederick County Has Run Into Opposition

Delegate Karen Lewis Young

The legislation calls for it to be a  pilot program.

Annapolis, Md. (KM) – Legislation to set up an outpatient program in Frederick County to treat persons with severe mental illness has run into opposition in the General Assembly. The bill is sponsored by Frederick County Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D) who says the opposition has come from some unlikely sources. “The mental health community that claims that you shouldn’t force somebody into treatment who doesn’t want to go into treatment,” she said. “The Public Defender’s Office has opposed because it claims they don’t have the resources.”

If the measure passes, Lewis Young says it would only apply to a small segment of the population. “It is intended to treat the severely mentally ill who have had numerous episodes of either being sent to jail, coming into a hospital emergency room, and they’ve either refused treatment, or have refused to follow up on their treatment.”

Delegate Lewis Young says only a judge could order an individual to undergo treatment, and this would follow a determination by a psychiatrist that that person is severely mentally ill.

If it’s enacted, the treatment center would be a pilot program set up in Frederick County. It would be examined to determine it could work in other jurisdictions in Maryland.

Currently, the legislation has not made it out of either the House of Delegates or the Senate, and the last day of the 2022 General Assembly is April 11th.

At this point in time, Delegate Lewis Young is proposing that this issue be studied before the bill comes back next year. “And I don’t like to do studies,” she says. “But when all else fails, and you’ve got disagreement, sometimes you need the data to make your case.

Lewis Young says the study would identify how many people in Maryland are severely mentally ill, and not receiving treatment. It would also examine best practices in other states for those individuals. “So the next time we come back to make a recommendation, we have all that extras data behind us,” she says.

Despite this setback, Delegate Lewis Young says a bill to set up a trust fund to reimburse for costs associated with designating and maintaining a 988 line as the universal phone number for a national suicide prevention and mental heath crisis hotline. “That may help a similar population. Those individuals who’ve had suicide idealizations and they need immediate response,” she says.

By Kevin McManus