Judge Holds MD Officials in Contempt Over Psych Beds

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A Baltimore judge held Maryland’s acting health secretary and other top officials in contempt of court and ordered them to open dozens of beds at state psychiatric hospitals by the end of the year, the Baltimore Sun reports. Judge Gale Rasin said acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader and his staff had failed to follow court orders to place criminal defendants in state psychiatric hospitals. Some mentally ill defendants have languished in jails for weeks waiting for a bed at a state hospital. “Secretary Schrader: I say, ‘Fix this problem and do it now,’” Rasin said. She said the health department “has failed miserably to meet its responsibility,” calling the evaluation and treatment system for potentially mentally ill defendants “in a shambles.”

Schrader told the Sun that Rasin is ignoring steps he is taking to add 95 psychiatric beds in a variety of locations. He said the judge is “stuck in the past. I’ve got to be worried about the future.” Rasin wrote that state health officials had failed to heed warnings of a need to expand state hospitals as far back as 2012, when Martin O’Malley was governor and a consultant recommended “a very significant increase in hospital beds.” Rasin said Schrader seemed to be “disconnected from the process.”

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