A key bill pending in the NYS Legislature calls for improvements in Kendra’s Law, now a hot subject after a policeman was shot and killed by a mentally ill man in Westchester County. Kendra’s Law is the Assisted Outpatient Treatment Law (AOT) which is of top importance to our families all over the country. It enables any of us to contact the county Office of Community Services and seek to have a loved one who is acting out of control, potentially dangerous to himself or others, to be given priority attention by a special team to receive medical services in the community. The team can petition a judge to order the person to follow a treatment plan and if he does not, he can be involuntarily hospitalized.
The improvements sought in the bills (Senate 4881A (Catharine Young) and Assembly 6987A (Aileen Gunther) would call for an evaluation of mentally ill prisoners or involuntarily committed hospital patients prior to their release. That would enable someone to keep track of the person after his or her release so we reduce chances this is a vulnerable person out there without any kind of watch over him. That makes sense to most of us.
Objectors to the law have mounted a malicious campaign against Kendra’s contending that it is racially biased, while studies show otherwise, and making false statements against the law. They do not represent families. On this one, we urge all families to stand up and register your support. Call the Governor Cuomo on 474-8390 or Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, on 455-3791. They’re the two most likely to intervene now.
Co-President, Schenectady Alliance on Mental Illness