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Western Md. Lawmakers Sponsor Mental Health Bills

The bills would make it easier to have someone involuntarily committed to a mental institute, as well as create a mental health and law enforcement task force.

ANNAPOLIS, MD - Two Western Maryland lawmakers are sponsoring mental health bills in the state legislature.

Lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly are expected to introduce about 2,300 bills during this year's session. Making sure people get the mental health treatment they need has a personal connection for Delegate Michael Hough.

"My father, after struggling with alcoholism and depression, committed suicide, so my own family has struggled with this, and I know how it affects people, and that's why I want to see, from both a policy and a personal standpoint, to see these people get the help that they need," says Hough, (R) - Washington and Frederick Counties.

Hough is sponsoring a bill making it easier to have someone involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.

"Right now, you have to be a danger to yourself or others to be committed against your will," Hough says.

The bill would allow those considered "gravely disabled" to be committed involuntarily.

"Back in the 1950s and 1960s, it used to be that most people ended up in mental hospitals," Hough says. "We made the decision that has wrong, and we put them in the community. Now the pendulum has swung too far. Now people are in the community, and they're not getting treatment. They're not getting help."

Senator David Brinkley plans to file his own mental health bill next week. It would make it easier for mental health professionals and law enforcement to work together.

"What we need in the law enforcement community and in the mental health community is to adequately communicate and train so there can be recognition of whenever we're in a crisis situation," says Brinkley, (R) - Frederick County.

Brinkley's bill would create a mental health and law enforcement advisory board and crisis intervention training.

He hopes it could help prevent tragedies, such as the deadly shooting in College Park and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"We see these things, and we're appalled by what happens, but the next step is what can we actually do about it, and how can we get those types of recognition, training, and resources into the community so that we can avert any of these crises," Brinkley says.

Both Hough and Brinkley are trying to do something about it. They're co-sponsoring several other mental health bills during this session.

You can read Hough's mental health bill by clicking here.

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