On May 20th, I attended the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH)'s first Outpatient Services Programs Workgroup, designated by Senate Bill 882/ House Bill 1267. These were bills proposing legislation to bring outpatient commitment ("assisted" outpatient treatment - AOT) to Maryland and to look at the use of ACT (assertive community treatment) and other outpatient services in Maryland. The meeting was the first of 8, and they are open to the public.
Since involuntary outpatient treatment is a controversial topic, it's no surprise that the room was full and all the stakeholders were represented. I'm going to guess there were 120 people there, and I saw people from NAMI, TAC, the public defender's office, the psychiatric society and our diligent lobbyist. One thing that surprised me was when one man announced that he was one of only three consumers there. Really? This is about legislation that might impact people with psychiatric disorders, shouldn't they come to have a say? I spoke with this gentleman after and was told there was no transportation available to bring people them from their day programs. But really, aren't there people out there who have been committed to hospitals, who might be concerned about this legislation, who have cars? I guess they'd need to get time off work, as I did. I also think it's possible they didn't know about the meetings, so I'm posting this here. I knew about it because I'm on the psychiatric society's legislative committee, and obviously another hundred or so other people knew about it, but if you know someone who might like to attend, please spread the word. Please be aware that the meetings may be moved to a larger space.
I hate the idea that stakeholders make these decisions for people -- some of whom are quite outspoken and organized -- without their input. Those who've benefited from forced care need a voice. And those who've been harmed by forced care also need a voice. If you have something to say, or you just want to listen to the process, these meetings are open to the public.
The workgroup will make recommendations on issues related to behavioral health, including statutory and regulatory changes to...