Helping a loved one who is experiencing a severe mental illness, especially someone who may not realize they are sick, is one of the greatest gifts you can give. For some, it may mean the difference between life and tragedy. ~ Treatment Advocacy Center
In years past, lack of support from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) has prevented AOT bills from advancing, leaving the state among the worst in the nation for making treatment possible for people with severe mental illness who are too sick to recognize their own illness.
But the report released Wednesday by the DHMH that outlines a proposal for court-ordered outpatient treatment shows the department has finally listened to the voices of families desperate to keep their mentally ill loved ones out of hospitals and prisons.
Those who will benefit from AOT “are a small percentage of the mentally ill but use a large portion of available resources,” said Brian Stettin, policy director at the Treatment Advocacy Center. Stettin worked alongside NAMI-Maryland and other Maryland-based advocacy groups to inform the proposal.
Under the proposal, mandatory outpatient commitment would be used where:
The patient is an adult who has declined voluntary treatment for mental illness.
The patient has been involuntarily admitted to a facility twice in the last 48 months.
Outpatient care would prevent deterioration that would result in involuntary hospital care.
Outpatient care would limit treatment interruptions and relapses.
There is no appropriate and less restrictive alternative.
"It is very important for people with mental illness to recover and live productive lives," said DHMH secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. "We are talking about a critical missing component in Maryland law that needs to be fixed in order to support certain people in Maryland getting the services they need."