Thanks to our colleagues at NYAPRS for these articles. – Toni
Deal On Mental Health Bill Comes Down To The Wire In Albany
Crain’s Health Pulse June 20, 2017
State legislators this week will determine the future of the soon-to-expire Kendra’s Law, which permits court-ordered community-based treatment for people with serious mental illnesses.
The state Assembly and the state Senate have until Wednesday to strike a deal to extend the statute, which expires at the end of this month.
The Senate version, sponsored by Republican Catharine Young, would make the law permanent. It also adds a provision that would require inmates with serious mental illnesses, upon discharge from prison, to be treated either in a hospital or through assisted outpatient treatment.
The Assembly bill, sponsored by Democrat Aileen Gunther, would simply extend Kendra’s Law through June 2022 rather than adding provisions that would expand the use of assisted outpatient treatment.
“Extending the legislation not only allows us but compels us to reevaluate the program every few years to look for opportunities for improvement,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said last week in a statement.
A Kendra’s Law compromise could be the most significant health care bill to pass during a final week that is expected to be dominated by discussion of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control of city schools.
DJ Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org. and a vocal supporter of Kendra’s Law, said he favors the Senate bill, which he said will increase the number of people receiving assisted outpatient treatment. He cited state Office of Mental Health data showing rates of hospitalization, incarceration and homelessness each falling more than 60% in the city when people entered assisted outpatient treatment.
“Historically renewal has given [the Legislature] the opportunity to improve it. Now that they’ve stopped improving it, they should make it permanent,” Jaffe said.
Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, is skeptical that court orders are necessary to treat serious mental illnesses. He supports the Assembly bill and wants the state to study whether “enhanced voluntary service agreements,” which design a community treatment plan for people without a court order, could achieve the same results.
“We want the state to consider the use of alternatives before we make [Kendra’s Law] permanent,” he said.
Legislature Remains at Odds Over Kendra’s Law
NY State of Politics June 16, 2017
With less than a week before the legislative session concludes, the Democratic-led Assembly and Republican controlled-Senate are at odds over how to extend a key mental health law.
Known as Kendra’s Law, on the books since 1999, requires mandatory mental health care for some patients, not including those who are on medication.
The Assembly approved a bill extending the measure another five years, until the end of June 2022. But Senate Republicans want the law made permanent.
In a statement, Speaker Carl Heastie said it was important to re-assess the law in the coming years.
“The Assembly Majority is aware of the importance of this legislation, as well as the importance of ensuring New Yorkers receive access to the mental health services they need,” Heastie said. “We also recognize that extending the legislation not only allows us, but compels us to reevaluate the program every few years to look for opportunities for improvement.”
The session is scheduled to conclude on Wednesday.
State Assembly Still Hasn’t Decided Fate Of Soon-To-Expire Law That Allows Judges To Mandate Psychiatric Treatment
BY Glenn Blain New York Daily News June 14, 2017
ALBANY – With only a few days left in their annual session, state lawmakers are still debating the fate of Kendra’s Law.
The Democrat-controlled state Assembly voted Wednesday on a bill to renew for five years the law giving judges the authority to order psychiatric treatment for individuals who pose threats to public safety or themselves.
But the GOP-controlled Senate has so far balked at such an extension and, instead, is pushing to make the law permanent and strengthen its provisions to make it easier for loved ones and others to obtain court orders mandating treatment.
“It’s good in a sense that the Assembly is taking action but we shouldn’t have to go through this every five years,” said Sen. Catharine Young (R-Olean), who sponsored the measure permanently extending the law. “It’s been proven to work. The studies have shown that it reduces homelessness and violence, suicides and incarcerations. It’s effective.”
Young said she plans to continue negotiations with the Assembly and hopes to convince them to approve a permanent extension before the Legislature ends its session next week. The law expires on June 30th.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Sullivan County), who sponsored the Assembly’s five year extension, said the Assembly’s bill is in response to the wishes of mental health advocates who favored only an extension.
“We are very much about an extender,” said Harvey Rosenthal executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. “Extending it keeps the Legislature overseeing the use of this controversial measure and keeping an eye on it while we are looking at alternatives.”
The law was named for Kendra Webdale, who was pushed to her death in January 1999 as she waited for an N train in Manhattan. Her attacker, Andrew Goldstein, was diagnosed with schizophrenia but was off his medication.
Supporters of making the law permanent point to, among other items, a Manhattan Institute study released in April that found individuals under court order were 63% less likely to be hospitalized and 71% less likely to be incarcerated and 68% less likely to be homeless.