Albany – Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz, Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Mental Health welcomed the extension of Kendra’s Law after it passed by a unanimous vote on the floor of the New York Assembly on Tuesday evening. Kendra’s Law (A.10790) was originally set to expire on June 30, 2010, but Ortiz and the New York State Assembly have brought a 5 year extension one step closer to being realized.
Kendra’s Law creates a statutory framework for the court-ordered Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), to ensure that individuals with mental illness and a history of hospitalizations or other concerns participate in community-based services appropriate to their needs. The law also establishes a procedure for obtaining court orders for certain individuals with mental illness to receive and accept outpatient treatment. In 2009 the independent study by Duke University, the Macarthur Foundation and PRA was released and concluded that New York State’s AOT program had improved outcomes for its recipients, apparently without negative consequences. However, the report also found that the results and uses of AOT differ substantially around the state. This report also concluded that further study is necessary.
An important aspect of the Assemblyman’s legislation is the fact that it extends Kendra’s law for five years. This time period allows the state to further study the effects of Kendra’s Law on our mentally disabled communities. Assisted Outpatient Treatment is a good program for New York State; however, it is not without flaws. AOT should be continued for the next five years so that it can continue to be studied and improved upon.
Ortiz stated, “Compelling people into treatment should always be a last resort. In extending, but not making the law permanent, the Legislature can ensure that New York continues to increase and evaluate the use of voluntary measures to strengthen and improve community-based mental care -- something which is very important and always preferred to involuntary treatment.”