The Talk: What people are saying about Baltimore Behavioral Health

November 08, 2010

Scott Calvert's two-part investigation in The Sun on Baltimore Behavioral Health, a West Baltimore drug treatment facility that has been routinely diagnosing its clients with co-occurring mental health disorders, generated strong reactions from the mental health community and former clients.

A Sun editorial said Mr. Calvert's report shows problems not just at BBH but also at the state health department, which failed to notice anything amiss even as the center's billings skyrocketed and it sucked up more and more of the state's budget for intensive outpatient psychiatric care. The editorial called on the legislature to investigate.

Jerry T. Lawler, clinical psychologist in private practice and in a transitional housing facility for homeless recovering addicts in Baltimore, wrote that over-diagnosis of psychatric problems is common with addicts but many of them do suffer from less severe disorders, such as post-traumatic stress.

While saying the kind of practices described at BBH are far outside the norm for mental health and substance abuse treatment centers and needed to be exposed, Herbert S. Cromwell, executive director of the Community Behavioral Health Association of Maryland, worried that the articles could reduce overall public suport for addiction and psychiatric treatment services, which are already severely underfunded.

Richard E. Vatz, the Towson political rhetoric professor who also has written extensively about psychology, said the articles failed to emphasize what made BBH's over-diagnosis possible the inherently subjective nature of psychiatric diagnoses.

And finally, a former addict from Anne Arundel County credits BBH with saving his life. However, he says he was given diagnoses of depression and later bi-polar disorder, which he says are inaccurate.

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