Senator Gerald Cardinale said today that the New Jersey Psychiatric Association’s recently released position paper supporting involuntary outpatient commitment for patients with mental illness shows the importance of taking action on legislation he’s sponsored to authorize courts in any county in New Jersey to order patients with mental illness to partake in outpatient treatment.
In its position paper the NJPA highlighted the success of involuntary outpatient commitment programs in addressing the negative and potentially dangerous consequences of untreated mental illness. The NJPA expressed support for Senator Cardinale’s S2828, stating it “supports legislation that materially strengthens the availability and effective implementation of involuntary outpatient commitment in New Jersey.”
“As the NJPA found, the nature of a mental illness often makes it difficult for a patient to recognize their own illness and ability to choose on their own to accept needed treatment,” said Cardinale (R-Bergen, Passaic). “Unfortunately, the consequences of untreated mental illness can be tragic. Those who are left to suffer without treatment face escalated risk of unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse and either being a victim or perpetrator of violence.”
Currently, only six counties in New Jersey have taken advantage of legislation enacted in 2009 that enabled an involuntary outpatient treatment program. In its paper the NJPA found that in the six New Jersey counties where involuntary outpatient commitment programs exist, as well as in states where similar programs are used, there have been positive results showing fewer hospitalizations, reduced crime and better outcomes for patients themselves. The association also found that outpatient treatment is often far cheaper than the cost of incarceration or hospitalization that can occur if the mental illness is not treated.
Senator Cardinale’s bipartisan bill provides that in any county in New Jersey in which the involuntary commitment to an outpatient treatment program has not been implemented, a court may, through a conditional release provision, assign a patient who has been determined to need involuntary commitment to treatment to an outpatient treatment provider. S2828 also authorizes the court, where appropriate, to order “depot doses” – a form of medication that can be stored in a patient’s body for up to a month.
S2828 was introduced in early June but has not yet been scheduled for a Senate committee hearing. Senator Cardinale is submitting a letter to Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) to request the bill be posted for a vote.
“With this backing from those in the state who understand mental illness the best and with further evidence of the need to address an illness that affects so many people I urge Senate Democrats to take swift action on this legislation,” said Cardinale. “Much mental illness that can lead to destructive life patterns and irrational thoughts of violence can be addressed by simply taking appropriate medication. By allowing courts, when appropriate, to order a patient receive proven mental health treatments we can reduce both the need for other expensive social services and the risk of tragic acts of violence.”