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Court-ordered outpatient treatment reduces recidivism

October 13, 2010
by Press Release
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Arlington, VA — Court-ordered outpatient treatment—often called “assisted outpatient treatment” or “AOT—is effective in reducing the arrest rate for individuals with severe psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. And with fewer arrests, it may result in fewer people with mental illness being jailed, according to a new study published this week in Psychiatric Services.

“The odds of arrest in any given month for participants who were currently receiving (assisted outpatient treatment) were nearly two-thirds lower” than for similar individuals who had not yet entered such programs, according to the study of Kendra’s Law, the New York law that authorizes court-ordered outpatient treatment for a small percentage of individuals with severe mental illness.

“Our survey of incarceration versus hospitalization found that the U.S. currently jails or imprisons three times as many people with severe mental illness as it hospitalizes, and an estimated 16 percent of all inmates suffer from brain diseases such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder,” said Jim Pavle, executive director, in response to the new report. “This study provides further data that assisted outpatient treatment effectively reduces the criminalization of mental illness.”

“Reductions in Arrest Under Assisted Outpatient Treatment in New York” was co-authored by researchers from Duke University School of Medicine, the University of South Florida and Policy Research Associates in New York.

Assisted outpatient treatment laws utilize a court order to provide treatment to people whose mental illness makes them incapable of volunteering for care. Forty-four states have adopted such laws. In New York, AOT has been in use since 1999 and has been shown to result in a reduction of homelessness, hospitalizations, suicide attempts and drug abuse as well as arrest and incarceration.