Health department to review psychiatric bed registry, brief legislators

Review to be conducted at committee request after bill fails to pass

April 10, 2013|By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

A bill that would have required the state health department to report to legislators on the effectiveness of a new online registry of psychiatric hospital beds did not pass this legislative session — but the review will be conducted anyway.

On April 4, Del. Peter A. Hammen, a Baltimore Democrat and chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee, wrote a letter to health secretary Joshua Sharfstein — in lieu of moving the bill out of his committee — requesting the health department conduct the review and report back to his committee before the 2014 legislative session.

Brian Hepburn, director of the Mental Hygiene Administration, said his agency and Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems will conduct the report as requested while continuing to "support the project and encourage voluntary participation."

The registry is aimed at streamlining services for mentally ill patients who show up at hospital emergency rooms, speeding their transfers to dedicated psychiatric units in the state, officials have said. Patients and hospital officials have reported psychiatric patients taking up needed space in emergency rooms, a setting that is not optimal for their care.

Participation in the registry, which allows hospitals to share information as to bed availability in different units, is currently voluntary.

Following coverage of the registry in The Baltimore Sun, Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, announced he would introduce legislation to require participation among Maryland hospitals.

The bill he eventually filed instead called for the MHA and MIEMSS, which are both already involved in the operation of the registry, to conduct a review.

Rosenberg said the agreement reached produces the same result as his bill, so he is pleased.

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