Assisted outpatient treatment plays an effective and crucial role in aid to the seriously mentally ill
NEW YORK, NY — This June, a critical element of New York’s mental-health-care system, Kendra’s Law, is set to expire. The law addresses untreated serious mental illness by providing court-ordered treatment to those stable enough to live in the community under the supervision of mental-health officials—also called assisted outpatient treatment (AOT). A new Manhattan Institute report by senior fellow Stephen Eide evaluates the law’s role and efficacy and makes the case for why the state should make it permanent.
While the seriously mentally ill compose only 4 percent of New York City’s adult population, they make up 11 percent of its jailed inmates and 25 percent of its adult shelter client population. According to the state Office of Mental Health, Kendra’s Law has reduced rates of incarceration and homelessness among the seriously mentally ill who receive court-ordered treatment by around 70 percent.
In light of these striking results, Eide makes the case that state lawmakers should formally abandon the premise that the program is simply an experiment and make it permanent. He presents three specific reasons:
- History demonstrates the need for securing services and resources for the most seriously mentally ill individuals. A strong AOT program not only holds seriously mentally ill individuals accountable for participating in treatment; it holds the mental-health-care system accountable for providing it to them.
- Treatment is the most promising form of prevention. Studies showing the reduction in homelessness, hospitalization, and arrest show AOT’s ability to prevent a patient’s deterioration.
- Different seriously mentally ill subpopulations require different approaches. AOT is intended for a particularly challenging, niche population that is ill-suited for either an involuntary-inpatient or voluntary-outpatient approach.