HB 693 — Public Safety – Correctional Facilities – Mental Disorder Screening

Committee: House Judiciary

Position: Support

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

House Bill 693 requires the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Department of Health to create guidelines for mental health screening for inmates upon arrival in a correctional facility within the state.

The Conference supports legislation that ensures access to quality, affordable, and life-giving health care for all, especially for vulnerable populations such as those needing mental health treatment while in confinement. The Conference will support expanding access to health care options for all who need it, regardless of status, as every person has a basic right to adequate health care arising from the Church’s teaching on the sanctity and dignity of human life.

Treatment of mental health is imperative for ability of the inmate to function while incarcerated as well as once back in society. It’s a necessity that all men and women have appropriate access to mental health care services, regardless of their current placement in life. Simply the relative isolation of confinement is enough to aggravate existing mental health issues. Inmates with undiagnosed or untreated mental health concerns are more likely to be a harm to themselves or to others, and face a myriad of consequences such as increased sentence time and solitary confinement. Screening for and subsequently treating mental health concerns is crucial to support the inmate while incarcerated, ideally leading to lower recidivism rates and an easier reintegration back into the person’s community.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on House Bill 693.