Medical Services Division
Dr. Larry Heller, Chief Medical Officer
Courthouse East, Room 100
111 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Telephone: (410) 396-5013
Fax: (410) 625-2766
Overview of the Medical Services Division
Since 1925, the Medical Services Division has provided psychiatric, psychological, and social work evaluations for the court system in Baltimore City. Medical Services Division staff members have also provided leadership in the development of key local and statewide forensic psychiatric programs and services.
Today, the program continues to work closely with other city, state, and private agencies in developing and improving programs and services to persons with mental illness who have court involvement. All programs and services are initiated or approved by the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Most recently, the Division has participated in innovative programs benefiting Baltimore City, including the following:
- The development of the Mental Health Court at Hargrove Courthouse;
- The implementation of a new Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration (MHA) program to evaluate juvenile competency in Baltimore and statewide.
- The development of a jail and hospital diversion program for the District Court.
- A mental health case management docket in the Circuit Court.
Judges and Masters of the Eight Judicial Circuit’s Family, Criminal, and Juvenile Divisions provide many evaluation referrals. The program also receives referrals from the District Court of Maryland #1, from other agencies, or consumers themselves. The referral criterion is contained in the program descriptions in this document. The division also provides objective, professional mental health evaluations on a variety of cases for state and local agencies.
Medical Services Division staff and consultants who perform evaluations are forensically trained and have qualified as experts. Staff social workers are licensed at the highest clinical level and have extensive experience working with forensic populations. The Medical Services Division also utilizes forensic fellows, residents and social work interns from the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, Howard University, Loyola University and Morgan State University through our collaborative training programs with these institutions. Under the supervision of Medical Services staff and special consultants, these students participate in hundreds of evaluations and contribute fresh perspectives each year. Additionally, these students obtain professional tutelage, expertise in the interconnection of mental health and the law and gain real world experiences that enhance their marketability, upon completion of their academic careers.
The principal goal of the Medical Services Division is to provide timely, high quality court ordered evaluations and reports. Due to constitutional speedy trial requirements and the tremendous volume of cases coming through the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, the Division makes great efforts to expedite its work. Due dates are important and postponements are infrequent. Urgent requests and emergency evaluations are handled as soon as possible.
Medical Services Division / Special Programs:
These programs have been proposed or approved by the Circuit Court. All are designed to contribute overall efficiency, effectiveness, or responsiveness of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. All are collaborative projects in which the Medical Services Division partners with other Divisions within the Circuit Court, with the District Court, or with the public or private agencies that have contributed funding through grants, contracts, or intergovernmental agreements.
The Special Programs:
- Forensic Alternative Services Team (FAST) – A jail diversion program for the mentally ill misdemeanor offenders. Grant funding comes from the Mental Hygiene Administration’s Office of Forensic Services, through Baltimore Health Systems, Inc., the local mental health authority for Baltimore City. Currently staffed by six licensed and experienced master level clinicians, this program operates units at the Central Booking and Intake Facility, (CBIF) and the District Courts. FAST also assists with certain Circuit Court cases. (Please see #4 below) In addition to early diversion, FAST has worked since 2004 in the development of a mental health docket in the Southern district. With the development of the Mental Health Court at Hargrove Courthouse, the FAST team has expanded its services to include clinical assessments of those recommended for the Mental Heath Court, treatment planning, and in some cases monitoring the treatment plans of participants.
Referral process: FAST social workers receive referrals from any source, including the detention centers, judges, the Pretrial Screening Unit at the Medical Services Division, jail officers, lawyers, community providers, families, agencies, and persons referring themselves. Questions concerning Court referrals to FAST should be referred to the Director of the FAST Program, Cory Kline, LCSW-C, at (410) 878-8328. A referral form is unnecessary.
- ADAA Court Assessor Program: The State of Maryland’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, funded through the Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore, (BHSB) has assigned a court assessor to work closely with the Medical Services Division. This court assessor evaluates both Circuit Court and District Court defendants to determine their eligibility for commitment to substance abuse programs in the community or residential programs. The assessor provides written reports to the court and follows up with referrals to the programs if approved by the court.When requested by the Court, the Medical Services Division and the BHSB assessor can provide coordinated Articles §8-505/8-507 evaluations along with a pre-sentence psychiatric evaluation.
Referral process: Court orders for Articles §8-505/8-507 assessments should go directly to Ms. Ashley Hope at BHSB. The telephone number is (410) 637-1900 ext 251. The fax number is (410) 637-1917. Court requests for a coordinated presentence and Articles §8-505/8-507 evaluation should go to Medical Services Division, Attn.: Ms. Shelly Scruggs, at (410) 396-5013.
- Emergency Petitions: The Social Work staff of the Medical Services Division and Family Division staff assists persons who come to the Courthouse to complete a petition for an emergency psychiatric evaluation. These individuals are provided assist with the petition and are escorted to the Office of the Special Master, avoiding confusion and delay.
Referral process: Individuals requesting an emergency petition should be directed to the Medical Services Division offices, Room 100, Courthouse East.
- Mental Health Case Management Docket (MHCMD): This new program establishes a special mental health docket in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. In this new program, certain felony defendants with serious mental illnesses will receive court ordered community-based treatment and support services as a condition of probation instead of a jail sentence. Through a contract with Baltimore Mental Health Systems, the Medical Services Division provides a licensed clinical social worker to assess defendants for eligibility for this new program. The social worker also links defendants to community mental health and other programs, as well as tracking the defendant’s compliance with treatment, working closely with the presiding judge attorneys, parole and probation staff, and others.
Referral process: The MHCMD social worker receives referrals from the state’s attorney who participates in the program. Questions about the program should be referred to the social worker, Denise Hesselton, LCSW-C, Ph.D at (410) 396-5013.