Should The Severely Mentally Ill Be Forced to Receive Treatment?

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A New York State law requires people suffering from severe mental illness to receive treatment when they are not hospitalized.

Kendra’s Law was passed by the state as a response to the death of Kendra Webdale in 1999. She was pushed to her death on a New York subway platform by a diagnosed schizophrenic man.

At least 44 other states have issued similar laws.

In the case of the New York law, a patient must have been committed to a hospital at least twice within the past three years, and must have displayed violent behaviors toward him or her self or others within the past four years in order to qualify for what’s called assisted outpatient treatment, or AOT.

AOT provides patients with a caseworker who ensures that they are attending therapy and taking their medications.

The law has caused a fair share of controversy, given that the person is forced to undergo treatment. But a new study shows that the law is not only beneficial to those who are forced into therapy, but ends up saving states money in the long-term.

Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of the Division of Law, Ethics and Psychiatry at Columbia University’s medical school explains the law.

Margaret, whose son has been forced into assisted outpatient treatment under the law, shares her story.