As part of the budget non-process, the NYS Senate today voted not to make Kendra's Law permanent and not to improve it. That means they voted not to help the mentally ill, not to keep the public safer and not to save money.
Kendra's Law allows courts to order certain potentially violent psychiatric patients to take medications as a condition for living in the community. It also commits the mental health system to providing the treatment
To compound the problem, in spite of the fact NY is short 4000 hospitals beds for the seriously ill, earlier this week, the Senate voted to close 250 more psychiatric hospital beds for the mentally ill. The Office of Mental Health will declare people 'recovered' and kick them out. Some will survive safely but many will inevitably decompensate, commit crimes, and wind up in jail. New York also already has more mentally ill in prisons than hospitals.
Kendra's Law works and the legislature should have closed the loopholes. The opposing arguments didn't make any sense.
What the legislature did today is dangerous, expensive, and cruel to individuals with serious mental illness and all New Yorkers.
As a result of this vote, both hospitals and prisons can continue to release seriously mentally ill individuals who may be danger to self or others into the community without first determining if they need mandatory ongoing treatment to prevent them from becoming violent again.
The legislature gave in to the Office of Mental Health and the trade associations OMH funds. Those trade associations feared losing the ability to pick and choose easy to treat, non-symptomatic 'consumers', and being court-ordered to treat the most seriously ill. NYS OMH provides 'services' to 650,000 individuals with various mental health 'issues', but only allows 1,800 in Kendra's Law and 3,000 in hospitals, the two programs most likely to serve the seriously mentally ill.
Until the legislature closes the loopholes in Kendra's Law and forces OMH to focus on the most seriously ill, we will continue to see more random acts of violence by those with mental illness and cruelty to them. Senator Patterson is eliminating some government agencies, and maybe he should do as NYC did, eliminate the Office of Mental Health. Alternatively they could fire the commissioner.
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