Assisted Outpatient Treatment Laws

Jan 28, 2013

The Sandy Hook shootings have resulted in a special bipartisan task force of the Connecticut legislature.  Last week’s public hearing dealt with recommendations to enhance school safety.  Today’s lengthy hearing is about reducing gun violence, and tomorrow they’ll talk about increasing access to mental health care.

This piece of the puzzle has been the hardest to pin down.  Right now, we don’t know much about Adam Lanza’s mental state - or history of mental illness. But concern has already prompted lawmakers in New York to rush through legislation that requires therapists to report potentially dangerous comments by mental health patients involving guns.  

In Connecticut - another legal change will be on the table.

The CT Mirror’s Arielle Levin-Becker reports that Connecticut is now one of only six states in which the court cannot order psychotic patients to follow their prescribed treatment plan in order to remain independent.

While medication is only part of a more comprehensive program of long-term treatment, in certain illnesses it helps patients who don’t know they are sick recognize their illness and get the help they need.

But it’s not that simple.

Many believe that forcing treatment on people, even when within strict limits, is a violation of their civil rights. In addition, many mental health professionals worry that forcing treatment on their patients will damage the bond of trust that can takes years to build.

But others see it as a public safety issue - making sure that people with severe mental illness aren’t a threat to themselves and others.

Today, we’ll talk to mental health professionals and family members who care for those with mental illness in both the community... and up close at home.

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