MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT
An ACT to amend the mental hygiene law and the correction law, in relation to enhancing the assisted outpatient treatment program.
On behalf of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, we write to support Senate bill S 4881 and Assembly bill A 6987, and urge its passage in both houses of the Legislature.
In 1999, the Legislature enacted "Kendra's Law", establishing a statewide court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) program to improve outcomes for persons with severe mental illness who, in view of their treatment history and present circumstances, are likely to have difficulty living safely in the community. At the approach of the law's original 2005 expiration date, the Legislature took note of the Office of Mental Health (OMH) research documenting declines in rates of homelessness, hospitalization, substance abuse, alcoholism, violence, arrest and incarceration, and documented increases in treatment compliance, service engagement and positive consumer perceptions. In 2005, the Legislature opted to extend Kendra's Law for an additional five years to further evaluate the program.
On June 30, 2009, a team of independent researchers released the report of their long term study of AOT throughout New York State and in October, 2010, Psychiatric Services published six peer reviewed studies on the AOT program. These reports confirm the earlier OMT data. These studies found patients given mandatory outpatient treatment who were more violent to begin with, were nevertheless four times less likely than members of the control group to perpetrate serious violence after undergoing treatment and found less frequent psychiatric hospitalizations, shorter length of hospitalizations, reduction in the likelihood of arrest, higher social functioning, slightly less stigma and no increase in perceived coercion. AOT stimulates service providers to prioritize care for AOT recipients. In addition, the researchers found that judges hearing AOT cases could benefit from additional AOT training; and that counties favored increasing the availability of stipulations to reduce the court burden, costs, and transportation burdens. Recipients are far more likely than other patients to consistently receive psychotropic medications appropriate to their psychiatric condition; that those who receive AOT for periods of at least one year are more likely than those who receive AOT for shorter periods to sustain gains after leaving the program; that the law has been applied in a non-discriminatory manner; and that the court order itself, in addition to high quality services, is a significant factor in the program's success.
The experience of thousands of patients, treatment providers and families who have utilized Kendra's Law since 1999, point to several areas where the law should be improved to achieve costs savings, promote more efficient functioning of the AOT program and easier access to those who stand to benefit from it. The amendments included in this proposal are intended to reflect these findings and maximize the unique potential of this legislation to simultaneously serve the goals of compassionate care, fiscal responsibility, and public safety. Since this bill would enhance the Assisted Outpatient Treatment program by improving care for persons with serious mental illness, and promote the safety of patients and the public by streamlining and improving New York's Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program (Kendra's Law), we strongly urge that it be enacted into law.
New York State Association of Chiefs of Police