MPS Sends Letters to Secretary of Health Expressing Concern Over Funding Cuts

In May the MPS Executive Committee sent two letters to Laura Herrera Scott, MD, Maryland Secretary of Health, regarding her office’s recent decision to cut funding for psychiatry residency training at the University of Maryland and her decision to withdraw state support for the continuation of  research initiatives by the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and the Spring Grove Hospital Center.

The letter addressing the funding cuts for the University of Maryland Psychiatry Residency program noted, “Your office’s recent decision to cut funding for psychiatry residency training at the University of Maryland starting this July is a decision that will have detrimental effects on the well-being of our community” and continued, “there is already a shortage of psychiatrists both in our state and across the United States. By cutting funding for psychiatry residency training, we are exacerbating an already dire situation and depriving our community of much-needed mental health professionals.”  For several years, medical organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Medical Association (AMA), have supported federal legislation to increase Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots to address workforce shortages. The fact that the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) would work against this effort by eliminating funding for positions is deeply concerning. Doing so also counters the administration’s purported prioritization of improved behavioral healthcare access to the citizens of Maryland.

The letter highlighting the state’s decision to withdraw support for the the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center stated that “suspension of these research activities not only raises ethical concerns but also deprives patients of valuable treatment options and the autonomy to make informed decisions about their care. It is imperative that we continue to advocate for the rights of patients to access innovative treatments and participate in research studies that have the potential to transform lives. Patients have the right to choose their course of treatment. The denial of the choice to participate in a research study denies them this choice.”  The importance of maintaining a supportive environment for safe and ethical research cannot be overstated. It is through these endeavors that psychiatry can offer promising treatment options to those who need them most, while upholding the highest standards of patient care and respect for individual rights.

By targeting psychiatry and other vulnerable and stigmatized health issues like pediatric HIV, the state’s decisions impact the most vulnerable Marylanders and further widen existing health disparities. This is particularly troubling at a time when we are facing a behavioral health epidemic compounded by the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. These decisions shows a concerning pattern of de-funding of psychiatric services in Maryland.