Health Law

Court-ordered outpatient treatment for mental illness saves money, reduces arrests, study finds

A New York law that authorizes court-ordered outpatient treatment for serious mental illness has cut costs and reduced hospitalizations and arrests, a new study has concluded.

The law is known as Kendra’s Law, named after Kendra Webdale, who died in 1999 when a man with untreated schizophrenia pushed her onto the subway tracks, the New York Times reports. Forty-four states have some form of the law, but the program under New York’s legislation is the most developed because of the state’s money commitment, the story says.

The study by researchers at Duke University found that patients ordered into treatment under the law are less likely to return to psychiatric hospitals and were arrested less often, the Times says. The Medicaid and public-service costs of caring for the individuals dropped by half in New York City in the first year of the program, and by 62 percent in five other counties, according to a study summary and Science Daily.

The study followed 634 people who received court orders for outpatient treatment between January 2004 and December 2005. Under the program, caseworkers are tasked with making sure the patients attend therapy and take their medication.

Opponents of Kendra’s Law have said the programs infringe on the civil liberties of people who are not involuntarily committed. They also have expressed concerns that the programs shift services away from others with mental illness who are not subject to court-ordered outpatient treatment.

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