The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Budget Cuts Bring Bedlam to Maryland State Mental Hospitals

Jan 9, 2017

On Thanksgiving Day, patients rioted in a Maryland state mental hospital, injuring two employees. Several employees huddled in an office at the Springfield Hospital Center while patients threw chairs, knocked over filing cabinets, and poured cooking oil over the floors to make them slippery. The bedlam lasted about five hours before a SWAT team was sent in.

The Springfield riot is the latest in a number of violent incidents at Maryland psychiatric hospitals. In 2013, a consultant for the state health department documented serious assaults on hospital staff members at the Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, and two patients were killed by fellow patients at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup. In 2015, there were 551 patient assaults on staff members in Maryland's state psychiatric facilities.

Maryland's psychiatric hospitals have suffered budget cuts, the same cuts seen throughout state governments in recent years. According to state budget documents, the department's Behavioral Health Administration, which operates most of the hospitals, has 100 fewer full-time employees in its institutions than it had in 2015.

At the same time, according to the report to the legislature, the number of adults admitted to state psychiatric facilities has risen more than 10 percent to over 1,000. Most of them are considered “forensic” patients – meaning criminal and court-ordered to the facility.

The situation is now more dangerous for the workers and worse for the patients as well, with overcrowding and less attention for their needs – in other words, the very conditions that led patients to rebel in the first place.

The state is aware of the deficiencies in patient care and worker training and salaries. Even after recommendations for changes in August, nothing has changed.

The situation continues to become more untenable for patients and workers.