New report card on state psychiatric laws gives Maryland lowest grade in US

A report card looking at state psychiatric laws ranks Maryland the lowest in the country.

Lisa Dailey, director of advocacy for the Treatment Advocacy Center, said their report titled, “Grading the State: An Analysis of U.S. Psychiatric Treatment Laws,” gave Maryland an F.

The poor rating is based on vague laws surrounding involuntary commitment.

“It is a great place to be if you need psychiatric care — as long as you can volunteer for it,” Dailey said. “It’s a place where you may or may not get a good result based on where you are, and whether or not the person interpreting that criteria understands what they should be looking at.”

Dailey said other findings in the report include no outpatient legislation in Maryland and ambiguity in Maryland’s inpatient law, leading to increased chances for police interaction and creating barriers to treatment.

Maryland’s psychiatric treatment laws received a score of 18 out of 100. Minnesota achieved the highest combined score, with 97 out of 100 points. 

This is the second year in a row that Maryland ranked the lowest in the country. 

Locally, Virginia received a grade of B- with a score of 82 out of 100; and D.C. received a grade of F with a score of 56 out of 100.

Additionally, when patients are involuntarily admitted for emergency psychiatric treatment in Maryland, they are only held for 30 hours.

“That’s just such a short period of time when you consider the shortage of psychiatrists and evaluators,” Dailey said.

According to Dailey, only six states have short emergency custody timelines, and there’s one other state that’s about the same as Maryland.

She said that the vagueness of Maryland’s laws are part of why it has a low ranking.

“The statute doesn’t have a lot of detail in it. There’s not a lot of information available in terms of what definitions the legislature could have put in place,” Dailey said.

Recommendations for Maryland legislators from the Treatment Advocacy Center include extending the duration of emergency holds to 72 hours or more, provide an adequate definition of danger to self or others, add a grave disability criteria, and adopt statutory authority for outpatient civil commitment.

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