Darrell Nearon, PhD, JD, LCSW-C, Director
The program for the protection of patients’ rights
in the State psychiatric hospitals in Maryland, the Resident Grievance System
(RGS), was established in 1985 as part of the negotiated settlement of the
class action lawsuit, Coe vs. Hughes, et al . The suit focused on providing
patients’ effective access to the judicial system, which is guaranteed by the
United States Constitution. The settlement stipulated that a two tiered
patients’ rights advocacy system be created that would protect rights
guaranteed to patients by federal and state laws. The program is governed by
the Code of Maryland Regulations 10.21.14, entitled Resident Grievance System.
Adopted March 28, 1994, amended January 26, 1998.
The first tier of the program is a four-stage
grievance process that provides when a resident/patient files a grievance, the
grievance is investigated and resolved at one of the four stages in a fair,
efficient, and timely manner. In the event that a grievance is not resolved at
Stage 4, the grievant will be informed by the Rights Advisor of additional
relevant legal services which the grievant may contact.
The Rights Advisors (RAs) respond to complaints
alleging resident/patient rights violations, abuses, and neglect and serve as
advocates for a resident/patient at forced medication review panels. The RAs
provide all newly admitted patients a brief explanation and a Patients’ Rights
booklet describing their rights and the grievance system available to them.
The second tier of the program, the Legal Assistance
Providers (LAPs) is a group of independent law firms whose services are
obtained through state procurement and, who provide specific legal assistance
and representation to residents/patients. In addition, they provide legal
assistance to residents at Stage 3 and 4 of the RGS grievance process and at
forced medication panels. The LAPs and RAs conduct quarterly informational
meetings with residents/patients at the respective facility.
The RGS provides services to seven Mental Hygiene
Administration psychiatric facilities and two Developmental Disabilities
Administration state residential facilities and two Secure Evaluation
Therapeutic Treatment units.
The Coe Board of Review is an independent board of
attorneys, physicians, mental health professionals and representatives of
patient advocacy groups. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and
counsel for the Coe plaintiffs jointly appoint members to the board.