Thursday, September 24, 2015

How one NJ town implemented AOT ... with help from the local Mental Health Association ... a partnership, as it should be.

Morris County Initiates Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program for Persons with Serious Mental Illness

Morris County has instituted a new Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program in compliance with a state law that seeks to reduce institutionalization of mentally ill persons, and create a safer and healthier environment for patients, their families and the community.

The new program, which began this month and is provided by the Mental Health Association of Morris County (MHAMC) is a treatment plan for the recovery of mental illness through court-approved individual plans, especially for individuals with a history of medication non-compliance and who are unwilling to accept treatment voluntarily.

Through a judge’s order, an adult is committed to treatment in an outpatient setting, providing treatment in a “least restrictive setting, as an alternative to hospitalization at a private hospital or state institution.” The patient must adhere to the program to remain in the community and not be hospitalized.

“The hope is that AOT will act as an early intervention program for eligible individuals who, if left untreated, could need hospitalization or end up in the criminal justice system,’’ said Morris County Mental Health Administrator Laurie Becker.

“Especially at a time when there is a severe shortage of hospital beds, this program is an alternative treatment resource for some individuals and their families. Though too early to know, AOT may decrease the overall cost of psychiatric hospitalizations for the State and County,” Becker added.

The program is based on the state’s Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC), which was adopted in New Jersey in 2009 and is now being implemented in all 21 New Jersey counties.

This court-ordered program is designed for a small number of individuals with serious mental illness who have a history of success with clinically prescribed treatment but struggle to stay adherent. It is estimated this new program will serve several dozen Morris County clients annually.

Available in almost every state, research demonstrates that Assisted Outpatient Treatment reduces the risk of hospitalization, victimization, arrest, crime and violence. It also increases treatment adherence and eases the strain placed on family members or other primary caregivers.

Typically, violation of the court-ordered conditions can result in the individual being hospitalized for further treatment.

Research also demonstrates that AOT reduces the risks of hospitalization, arrest, incarceration, crime, victimization, and violence, while easing the strain placed on family members or other primary caregivers.

AOT provides the following to patients:
• Case management, psychiatrists
• Monitors client adherence to the court order
• Coordination with treatment providers
• Transportation to court hearings (initial and review hearings)
• Regular contact with all involved mental health providers
• Testimony at court hearings on individual progress
• Develops/modifies treatment plan as needed.

”We are excited to bring this new program into two counties and help give hope and support to people with mental illness and their families,’’ said Lou Schwarcz, President and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Morris County.

“It is especially good to announce the start of this program during National Recovery Month in Morris County, which calls attention to efforts to achieve success in dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues,” said Morris County Freeholder Hank Lyon, who is the county governing board’s liaison on Human Services issues.

The Mental Health Association of Morris County received funding from the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addictions Services to implement programs in both Morris and Sussex.

For more information on the program, contact Jennifer Malec, MHAMC Clinical Director at 973-334-3496 x418. Or contact the Morris County Division of Mental Health at 973-285-6852.

For more information on mental health services in Morris County, visit: and

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