Support Changes To Kendra’s Law

Albany Times Union Letter to Editor 5/24/12

Harvey Rosenthal‘s comments in “High marks for Cuomo’s aid for disabled,” May 14, praising Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s actions on the mental health front, are well taken. He goes amiss, however, on Kendra’s Law when he urges the governor to resist pressures to expand it or make it permanent.
One can’t understand the logic. Kendra’s Law is the model for similar laws in 44 states that have markedly reduced hospitalization and incarceration of mentally ill persons. Kendra’s Law is the most vital protection that families have when confronted with a loved one who is violent and out of control.
Families can call the police and a treating physician or responsible county official can call for a “pick-up order” in emergency situations. Better is the process used under Kendra’s Law in which family members can petition an assisted outpatient treatment team to put together a plan that can be enforced with a judge’s order. If the person can’t comply with the rules laid down by the judge, like taking medicine or showing up for appointments, an order can be obtained to involuntarily hospitalize him or her. That isn’t denying liberty; it’s a way to get the person needed hospital care.
Improvements in the bill call for evaluations and follow-ups for people who are coming out of a hospital or jail and have proven to be unable to exist safely without supervision. That’s an important step in reducing the tragedies that make headlines and worsen the stigma against the mentally ill.
The bills improving Kendra’s Law, Senate 4881A-2011 and Assembly 6987A, deserve the support of all families who understand how important these matters are to those of us with someone who is occasionally placed in jeopardy.

Co-president-Schenectady NAMI

DJ Jaffe is Executive Director of the non-partisan Mental Illness Policy Org., and author of Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill. He is a critic of the mental health industry for ignoring the seriously ill, and has been advocating for better treatment for individuals with serious mental illness for over 30 years. He has written op-eds on the intersection of mental health and criminal justice policy for the New York Times, Wall St. Journal and the Washington Post. New York Magazine has credited him with being the driving force behind the passage of New York’s Kendra’s Law and Congress incorporated ideas proposed by DJ in the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.