Dear Mr. Levin-Epstein,
I was very impressed with the balanced approach that you took. It is sadly rare but quite refreshing these days to see a journalist work hard to get the facts right and present both sides of a complicated issue fairly and competently.
As a former acting commissioner of mental health for the state of New York and a consultant to many states in the provision of public mental health services, I know how complicated and difficult this issue is. It has driven a wedge between consumers and their families, and various mental health advocates who ought to be teammates are now almost at war over this one divisive issue. With skill and integrity, you have shed light instead of heat that will, I feel, contribute to a more productive discussion.
I would like to call your attention to some excellent work on this issue by the MacArthur Research Network on Mandated Community Treatment (http://macarthur.virginia.edu/home.html). By looking more broadly at issues like choice and leverage, the MacArthur group is changing the debate in a very positive manner, one that I hope ultimately will identify a great deal more common ground between consumers and their families.
Finally, I wanted to mention that after your article was published, Sharon Carpinello, RN, PhD, New York's current commissioner of mental health, contracted with a research group at Duke University headed by Marvin Swartz, MD, in an effort to more comprehensively study the effects of Kendra's Law. Dr. Swartz and his all-star team of social scientists have proven over many years that they are capable of studying this issue with amazing competence and integrity, in a spirit similar to that of your article. By selecting such a credible research team, Dr. Carpinello has ensured that these questions will be answered with social science instead of political science, to the benefit of New Yorkers with serious mental illness, as well as their families and communities. I eagerly await their findings, wherever the chips may fall.
Again, thank you for this excellent piece of journalism.
Joel A. Dvoskin, PhD, ABPP, Diplomate in Forensic Psychology; University of Arizona College of Medicine; President-Elect, American Psychology-Law Society