Forum Session

Outpatient Commitment in Mental Health: Is Coercion the Price of Community Services?
July 11, 2000


Richard Hegner


This Forum session focused on one of the salient emerging policy issues in mental health–how government should deal with people with serious and persistent mental illness who pose a threat of violence to themselves or others. The meeting began with an examination of the association of violence with serious mental illness — a topic addressed by the December 1999 Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health — and the predictability of violent behavior among people with such conditions. As of the meeting date, 37 states had passed laws authorizing involuntary outpatient commitment for such individuals, essentially compelling them to comply with a set treatment regimen as a condition of residing in the community. The meeting featured presentations from the mental health agencies of two states: New York, which had opted for mandatory outpatient commitment legislation (Kendra's Law), and Maryland, which had chosen to forego such legislation. Representatives of two consumer organizations presented their disparate views on the desirability of outpatient commitment laws.


John Monahan, PhD, Doherty Professor of Law, University of Virginia, and Director, MacArthur Research Network on Mental Health and the Law; John Tauriello, JD, Deputy Commissioner and Counsel, New York State Office of Mental Health; W. Lawrence Fitch, JD, Director of Forensic Services, Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration; Chris Koyanagi, Policy Director, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; and Ronald Honberg, JD, Director of Legal Affairs, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

Related Materials

More information available in the accompanying publication, Issue Brief No. 757.

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