Reasons to widen Kendra's Law
There's one compelling reason for Albany to extend the reach of Kendra's Law, which uses court-ordered, intensive outpatient supervision to make sure the chronically mentally ill keep taking their medication. It works.
Tragedies like the death of Kendra Webdale -- who was pushed in front of a subway train in 1999 by a man with a long psychiatric history -- have declined dramatically since the law was enacted later that year. So have homelessness and suicide attempts involving those receiving assisted outpatient treatment.
Kendra's Law allows caseworkers, relatives and others to seek a court order requiring a patient to comply with outpatient treatment. Critics object to the use of coercive orders and instead credit intensive case management for the improved outcomes. Those services need to be maintained in this era of tight budgets. But legislation now in the State Assembly and Senate would help ensure patients who could benefit won't fall through the cracks.
For instance, prisons would be required to notify state mental health officials when a mentally ill inmate is released. So would hospitals when they discharge patients who were committed involuntarily. The bill would also help ensure that outpatient treatment orders remain enforceable if a patient moves from one county to another.
These are commonsense additions to the law to make sure people who need intensive supervision get it. And that should mean even fewer tragedies like Webdale's.