Outpatient commitment

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

Outpatient commitment refers to mental health law which allows the compulsory, community-based treatment of individuals with mental illness.

In the United States the term "assisted outpatient treatment" is often used and refers to the practice of courts requiring those it has found to be mentally ill to take medication or to comply with other restrictions, while not ordering involuntary commitment. The courts will often specify that if the orders are not complied with, the person under court order will be subject to involuntary commitment.

In the last decade of the 20th century and the first of the 21st, there were "outpatient commitment" laws passed in a number of states in the United States and jurisdictions in Canada, in response to a small number of violent acts committed by people who had been diagnosed with mental illness, or the existing "outpatient commitment" laws were expanded. These laws were opposed by the anti-psychiatry and mad liberation movements, often on the basis that the ordered drugs often have serious or unpleasant side-effects such as tardive dyskinesia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, excessive weight gain leading to diabetes, addiction, sexual side effects, and increased risk of suicide. Critics, such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, have also denounced the strong racial and socioeconomic biases in the issuing of outpatient commitment orders.[1][2]

Other countries and states have different laws with some requiring court hearings and others requiring that treating psychiatrists comply with a set of requirements before compulsory treatment is instituted. In Australia they are called Community Treatment Orders and last for a maximum of six months but can be renewed after review by a tribunal.

When a court process is not required there is usually a form of appeal to the courts or appeal to or scrutiny by tribunals set up for that purpose. Community treatment laws have generally followed the worldwide trend of community treatment. See mental health law for details of countries which do not have laws that regulate compulsory treatment.

See also

References

  1. New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc., "Implementatation of Kendra's Law is Severely Biased" (April 7, 2005) http://nylpi.org/pub/Kendras_Law_04-07-05.pdf (PDF)
  2. NYCLU Testimony On Extending Kendra's Law http://www.nyclu.org/aot_program_tstmny_040805.html



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