Md. Mental health facilities to report sexual abuse


Annapolis, MD- A Maryland bill would require all mental health facilities to report complaints of sexual abuse and harassment to state agencies within 24 hours.

According to Disability Justice, an online resource for legal professionals dedicated to protecting people with intellectual disabilities, only 3% of sexual abuse cases involving people with intellectual disabilities are reported.

HB881, filed with SB815, requires all mental health facilities – licensed residential treatment centers, public facilities, or hospitals with inpatient psychiatric services – to report complaints of sexual abuse and harassment within 24 hours to some state agencies, including the Behavioral Health Administration, Office of Health Care Quality, and Child Protection Services.

Forty-one mental health facilities in Maryland, including residential treatment centers, would be added and required to file sexual abuse complaints with designated agencies, under the bill.

According to the tax analysis of the bill, 38 cases of sexual abuse and harassment were reported by five state mental hospitals in 2020 to the Maryland Department of Health.

The Maryland Department of Health plans at least 240 additional reports from mental health facilities each year after the bill is implemented, the analysis says.

Patients in residential treatment centers are vulnerable to sexual violence due to their diagnosis, the isolation of the facility and the lack of resources to report these allegations, advocates told Capital News Service.

Under applicable law, any report of sexual abuse in a hospital setting must be reported to the local department of social services and the appropriate law enforcement agency, based on legislative analysis.

However, most cases of sexual assault in inpatient facilities are handled internally even after reporting it to police, advocates said.

According to advocates, there are a number of negative effects on the development of sexual abuse – depression, post-traumatic stress, low self-esteem and more.

The bill states that the Behavioral Health Administration is to: develop policies and training for staff, help patients file complaints, and provide patient education to address and identify sexual abuse and harassment.

Of the. Home sponsor Geraldine Valentino-Smith, D-Prince George’s, said the bill would increase Maryland’s integrity at its private facilities.

“We will see a lot of positive changes with the use of trauma-informed responses and proactive policies,” Valentino-Smith said during the House hearing.

State spending is expected to increase by $ 85,000 in fiscal year 2022, to hire staff at the Office of Health Care Quality to investigate complaints of sexual abuse and implement the bill. , according to the tax analysis.

The Senate bill awaits a vote in the House Health and Government Operations Committee and the House version of the bill presented to the Senate on Thursday.

This article originally appeared on on Thursday April 1, 2021.

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