Assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) is a procedure by which seriously mentally ill individuals are placed under a court-ordered treatment plan while continuing to live in the community. New York State’s version of AOT is known as “Kendra’s Law,” named after Kendra Webdale, a New York City resident pushed to her death in front of a subway train in 1999 by a man with untreated schizophrenia.
Kendra’s Law was enacted on a trial basis and has been temporarily reauthorized twice. It is up for reauthorization again during the current legislation session. Based on experience and extensive research, the state government should make the law permanent.
- Kendra’s Law helps seriously mentally ill individuals who are stable enough to live in the community but only under the supervision of mental-health officials. Supervision may be necessary due to a history of incarceration, violence, and/or hospitalization, or noncompliance with treatment. Though the seriously mentally ill compose only 4% of New York City’s adult population, they make up 11% of its jailed inmates and 25% of its adult shelter client population.
- In 2016, 4,207 individuals were placed under an AOT court order in New York State—2,076 of them in New York City. All told, 14,618 individuals have been placed in assisted outpatient treatment since 1999.
- Evaluations by state as well as independent researchers have shown the effectiveness of AOT. According to the most recent data, in New York, AOT has reduced the rate of hospitalization among those under court order by more than 60%, the rate of incarceration and homelessness by around 70%. New York State’s Office of Mental Health tracks more than 40 separate outcome indicators for AOT, and most of those indicators register improvement.
- The Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice recognizes AOT as an “effective” practice for reducing crime. The American Psychiatric Association endorses AOT as a “useful tool to promote recovery.”
Stephen Eide is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.