Friday, November 15, 2013

North Carolina Must Get Serious about Severe Mental Illness

For those patients who refuse to take medication or adhere to treatment, assisted outpatient treatment may be the best option. In AOT, a judge orders a person to get treatment if it is necessary to prevent dangerous psychological deterioration. Once assigned to AOT, participants receive intensive outpatient services that are designed to foster recovery and stability. Clinical studies at Duke University and Columbia University show that AOT is an evidence-based practice that effectively reduces the rates of re-hospitalization, arrest and victimization. Assisted outpatient treatment also saves money in the long term, because emergency rooms and incarceration are extremely costly to taxpayers. Those savings are significant: A study by Duke researchers found that the average annual cost declined by 50 percent in one sample and 62 percent in another.
There are some who may balk at the idea of court-ordered mental health treatment. Dave Richard, director of mental health for DHHS, recently described assisted outpatient treatment as a “pretty restrictive model,” and expressed concerns that court-ordered outpatient treatment takes away patients’ ability to make decisions for themselves. For some people with severe mental illnesses like paranoid schizophrenia, however, that decision-making capacity may already be compromised. Certainly voluntary treatment is always preferable to assisted outpatient treatment. But when people’s conditions cause them to repeatedly devolve into psychotic crisis, court-ordered treatment may be the only way to secure a good outcome for patients, families, and the public as a whole.

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Read the entire article in The News & Observer (Charlotte, NC):

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