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Woman left outside in hospital gown raises questions about discharge of mentally ill, homeless

Andrea K. McDaniels, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE -- A viral video showing Baltimore hospital security guards leaving a disoriented-looking patient from the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown on the street wearing only a thin hospital gown and socks is raising questions about how hospitals discharge the mentally ill and homeless.

The widely shared video, posted to Facebook by Imamu Baraka, has sparked outrage on social media. Hospital officials said they are investigating the incident and that they may take personnel action.

Hospital officials have not said why the woman, who was being discharged from the emergency room, was admitted to the hospital. Or why she was left out in the cold near a public transit bus stop.

The unidentified woman appeared to be unable to speak in the video that made national and international headlines and was widely shared on social media. It was unclear if she was suffering from a mental illness, or homeless. Baraka, who is listed as a mental health counselor in an online professional profile, attempts to speak to her, but she doesn't answer him.

Some mental health experts, including, Adrienne Breidenstine of Behavioral Health System Baltimore, which oversees substance use and mental health treatment in the city, said the woman appears to be actively symptomatic.

"Something was clearly going on," Breidenstine said.

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She said that discharge policies for people who are homeless or mentally ill varies from hospital to hospital. Some facilities have better relationships with social service agencies than others, Breidenstine said.

Breidenstine said more mental health services in the community could help prevent patients from ending up in emergency rooms.

The issue of people being put out of hospitals is a nationwide issue called "hospital dumping."

Two Howard University police officers and their supervisor were fired in May after being recorded dumping a patient from a wheelchair outside the university's hospital. A video of the incident showed a male officer pushing the barefoot woman to a bus stop. Two other officers watched as she fell onto the sidewalk.


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