Analysis of “We the People” Opposition to Kendra’s Law

In anticipation of a meeting held with Assemblyman Felix Ortiz,Chair of the Assembly Mental Health Committee, a radical leader of the opposition to Kendra’s Law sent a memo to her supporters explaining the points she intends to raise. Following is the full text of the communications with footnotes added to answer the concerns raised.






On Tuesday, April 27, 2010, WE THE PEOPLE and allies will be meeting with Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Chair of the Mental Health Subcommittee to oppose Involuntary Outpatient Torture[1]being made permanent or being extended. “Kendra’s Law” which exhibits structural and institutional racism[2] and classism was suppose to sunset in June 2010 – and the new proposed law is even more social control than its previous version.

The proposed new law includes provisions such as increasing the original court order from 6 months to one year;[3] not requiring doctor testimony[4],requiring fiscal management,[5] allowing an expired order to be renewed 60 days after it expires without needing a new hearing[6], and viewing”non-compliance” with drugs, urine or blood tests, or drugs and alcohol use as grounds for “dangerousness”[7].

Hundreds of millions of tax-payer dollars[8] have been spent on Kendra’s Law legislation, which was first enacted in 1999 after a young woman -Kendra Webdale – died when struck by a train after being pushed off a subway platform by Andrew Goldstein[9]. The law allowed for people who were accused of “mental illness”[10] but not considered a present danger[11]to be court ordered to receive outpatient drug treatment.[12]

Andrew Goldstein was an individual who had been institutionalized and drugged.[13] After he was released from lock-up he sought voluntary outpatient treatment.[14] However, he was repeatedly turned away by “mental health” treatment providers. He received no compassion, – no support, – no services, – not even the medications he wasaccustomed to and was willing to take[15]. He was refused help- and then pushedKendra Webdale – and then got attention. He would not even have qualified orbeen subject to the law named after his victim.[16]

This law is just an attempt to draw attention away from the realproblem, which is lack of real help and assistance from providers[17],and a knee-jerk response of social control and blaming the victim.[18]

WE THE PEOPLE are survivors and escapees of the current treatment methods of organized psychiatry[19]. WE THE PEOPLE maintain that too many people have been victimized by experimentation, drugging, and electro-convulsive “therapy”. They continue to state national statistics that people who have been treated as “mentally ill” die an average of 25 to 30 years younger than their contemporaries.[20]

WE THE PEOPLE view the “mental illness industry” as cruel,costly, powerful, and profitable. As citizens of the United States we maintain that the human rights of ALL people must be protected and promoted. When the needs of people are met, force is not necessary. Forced drugging and unwanted”treatment” is torture. We will be heard.

ACTION: Please sign on your support and offer comments on your opinion at (website deleted) All comments will be printed and presented to AssemblymanOrtiz on Tuesday, April 27, 2010. Please act now. If InvoluntaryOutpatient Torture becomes permanent in New York, it will set a standard for the country and the world to follow. Please Support us in New York State,today!


[1] “Assisted Outpatient Treatment”,also known as Kendra’s Law.

[2] When the law was set to expire in2005, to prevent the law from being renewed, opponents charged it was “racist.”Instead of making the law permanent, the legislature decided to renew it for five years and investigate the charge. The researchers at Duke University released their study in 2009.

“We find no evidence that the AOT Program is disproportionately selecting African Americans for court orders, nor is there evidence of a disproportionate effect on other minority populations. Our interviews with key stakeholders across the state corroborate these findings.”

What they defined as ‘racism’ was persons of color and Hispanics getting equal access to care. The number of individuals in Kendra’s Law is reflective of the number of people who receive public treatment and the presence of diversity in New York City, where AOT is used most often.

[3] There is no minimum length of a court order in existing legislation. It allows initial court orders to be a maximum of 6 months. The Gunther/Young bills have no minimum term for court orders. They propose to increase the maximum allowable to one-year based on research by Duke University showing individuals in Kendra’s Law do better ifthey remain in the program for a year versus 6 months, and those improvements continue even after the order ends as long at the individual had been in Kendra’s Law for one-year.

[4] Doctor testimony is required. The new bill gives the client and their court appointed lawyer the right to voluntarily stipulate to the doctors findings and waive the doctor’s personal appearance. Researchers at Duke Univ. found the medical issues and proposed treatment plan are not in dispute. and this provision could saves counties time and money.

[5] The new law codifies a court decision that “representative payee’ services may be ordered if they would benefit the patient. Usually this means paying their benefits to a third party who helps them manage their money so they have enough for housing, food, etc.and don’t use the money for drugs.

[6] The bill fixes a crack in the mental health system whereby an individual who is in AOT may have their order expire without being considered for renewal.

[7] The non-compliance must be substantial. In that case, since the individual is in material violation of a court order they can be taken to a hospital for an examination to see if assisted inpatient treatment is needed. If it is not, the patient is released.

[8] An annual total of $32 million was allocated for the AOT program (Source: 2009 Duke Univ. Study).

[9] The law was proposed before Ms.Webdale was pushed to her death. It was first proposed by families of the mentally ill in the 1980s. The law at that time required an individual to be”danger to self or others” before they could be treated over objection.Families wanted a law that would prevent dangerousness, rather than require it. The law they suggested was piloted in NYS as the Bellevue Outpatient CommitmentPilot Program (starting around 1995). In 1999, when Ms. Webdale was pushed, the public safety benefits of the pilot program became apparent, and advocates for the mentally ill were joined by those in the public safety community, hospital workers, hospital associations and others. The result was the passage ofKendra’s Law.

[10] The law lists strict criteria the courts must find before individuals can be ordered into treatment. A finding of mental illness is not sufficient.

[11] There are seven specific criteria that must be met before courts can order individuals to receive AOT. One of them is, in view of his or her treatment history and current behavior, is in need of assisted outpatient treatment in order to prevent a relapse or deterioration which would be likely to result in serious harm to the person or others:

[12] Medications are one of the services the courts may order patients to accept. The only mandated service is case management.

[13] Hospitalized and given medications to help alleviate his schizophrenia.

[14] After starting to deteriorate asa result of refusing to continue on his medications and in community-based treatment.

[15] Andrew Goldstein turned up at hospitals after he went off medications. Many feel if he had been under court order to receive care, he would not have gone off treatment. In addition, and importantly, the law not only commits the individual to receive care, it commits the health system to provide it. Had he been under court order and needed care, there would have been an obligation to provide it and he might not have been turned away.

[16] We are unaware on what basis this claim is made.

[17] It is true that providers of mental health services often refuse to admit the most seriously ill to their programs. One of the more important components of Kendra’s Law is that it not only commits the individual to receive care, it “commits” the mental health system to provide treatment. Kendra’s Law helps improves the treatment systems response to the needs of the seriously ill. Researchers at Duke who conducted the study the legislature requested found:

·     It is also important to recognize that the AOT order exerts a critical effect on service providers stimulating their efforts to prioritize care for AOT recipients.

·       AOT has been instrumental in increasing accountability at all system levels regarding delivery of services to high need individuals. Community awareness of AOT has resulted in increased outreach to individuals who had previously presented engagement challenges to mental health service providers.

·       Processes and structures developed for AOT have resulted in improvements to treatment plans that more appropriately match the needs of individuals who have had difficulties using mental health services in the past.

Researchers at OMH found:

·       Improved Access toServices. AOT has been instrumental in increasing accountability at all system levels regarding delivery of services to high need individuals. Community awareness of AOT has resulted in increased outreach to individuals who had previously presented engagement challenges to mental health service providers.

·       Improved Treatment PlanDevelopment, Discharge Planning, and Coordination of Service Planning.Processes and structures developed for AOT have resulted in improvements to treatment plans that more appropriately match the needs of individuals who have had difficulties using mental health services in the past.

·       Improved Collaboration between Mental Health and Court Systems. As AOT processes have matured,professionals from the two systems have improved their working relationships,resulting in greater efficiencies, and ultimately, the conservation of judicial, clinical, and administrative resources.

• There is now an organized process to prioritize and monitor individuals with the greatest need;

• AOT ensures greater access to services for individuals whom providers have previously been reluctant to serve;

• Increased collaboration between inpatient and community-based mental health providers.

[18] The development of AssistedOutpatient Treatment was based on the desire to help individuals with serious mental illnesses who are so ill, they cannot recognize they are ill (anosognosia). It properly balances the civil rights of individuals with mental illness, their right to treatment, and the safety needs of the public.It is a more compassionate, less expensive than it’s alternative: involuntary inpatient commitment.

[19] Most consumers who have experienced the program do not share the author’s opposition to Kendra’s Law. In 2010, Researchers at Columbia University found:

Patients who underwent mandatory treatment reported higher social 
functioning and slightly less stigma, rebutting claims that mandatory 
outpatient care isa threat to self-esteem.

In 2009, researchers at Duke University found:

Despite being under a court order to participate in treatment, current AOT recipients feel neither more positive nor more negative about their treatment experiences than comparable individuals who are not under AOT.”

In 2005, OMH researchers found:

·       87% of participants interviewed said they were confident in their case manager’s ability to help them

·       88% said they and their case manager agreed on what is important for them to work on.

·       75% reported that AOT helped them gain control over their lives,

·       81% said AOT helped them get and stay well

·       90% said AOT made them more likely to keep appointments and take medication.

[20] We don’t know where this statistic comes from or its relationship to Kendra’s Law. Researchers foundKendra’s Law recipients had a 55% reduction in suicide attempts or physical harm to self. This would be expected to, although it hasn’t been studied, to lead to an increase in life span, not a decrease.

Prepared by Mental Illness Policy Org. 4/25/10

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.