Monday, December 17, 2012


Yesterday, I suggested that both society at large and the Adam Lanzas in particular would be well served by laws that allowed authorities to provide potentially violent psychotics with psychiatric treatment against their will.

While the nation’s fury is focused on the NRA, I recommended that we look at how civil liberties advocates had made it increasingly difficult to commit such patients involuntarily.

I did not know it then, but I know now that Connecticut is one of the few states that do not allow for involuntary commitment. The Counter Contempt blog reported that the issue had been raised in the state this year. Through the work of “civil liberties” groups it failed to win passage.

It reports:

Here’s a fact you might not know – Connecticut is one of only SIX states in the U.S.that doesn’t have a type of “assisted outpatient treatment” (AOT) law (sometimes referred to as “involuntary outpatient treatment”). There’s no one standard for these types of laws, but (roughly speaking) these are laws that allow for people with mental illness to be forcibly treated BEFORE they commit a serious crime. Whereas previous legal standards held that the mentally ill cannot be institutionalized or medicated until they harm someone or themselves, or until they express an immediate intent to do so, AOT laws (again, roughly speaking) allow for preventative institutionalization or forced medication (I highly recommend reading the data cited in the link I provided in this paragraph, especially regarding what is known as “first episode psychosis”).

AOT laws vary state-by-state, and often bear the name of a person murdered by an untreated mentally ill person (“Kendra’s Law” in New York, “Laura’s Law” in California, etc.).
Earlier this year, Connecticut considered passing an AOT law (and a weak one, at that), and it failed, due to protests from “civil liberties” groups.

A couple of blogs have picked up the story, but it is unlikely to become an important part of the national conversation.


Charles A Pennison said...

It's much easier for society and its leaders to blame guns and evil for the type of disaster that occurred in Connecticut. After all, all a politician has to do is pass a law banning certain types of weapons. Then they can go around the country taking credit for making our children safer. It's cheap and easy to do.

Few want to tackle a more difficult issue of providing care for the mentally ill. It's expensive and not politically popular. Few people in our society want to look in the mirror and say "Why didn't I provide more care and treatment for our mentally ill?" We prefer to put the blame on something or someone else. Few of us want to place failure on ourselves.

Sam L. said...

The ACLU is pure in heart and spirit, so nothing they do is wrong politically. /sarc.

flynful said...

Back when I was in law school in the late 60's I remember a movement to assure the civil rights of the mentally ill. The idea of at least one law review article that I read was that no one should be kept in a mental institution just because they had mental problems, unless they were deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. The most ardent proponent was a fellow named Thomas Szasz, who died at the age of 92 in September of this year. The natural consequence of this movement was the closure of many state mental institutions and the release of thousands of mentally disabled onto the streets, with no apparent means of helping these people. In fact, they magically appeared as the "homeless" during Reagan's administration, when they had previously been released. To a great extent they were psychotics or schizophrenics with no where to go and no public means of support and the press used them to belittle Reagan who had no hand in this debacle. Today, the sad result is that in order to get help the mentally ill person has to be accused of a crime first.

So, today, instead of focusing on how we can help those in need of medical help we are going to adopt ineffective gun laws.

Does any of this ring a bell?