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Letters: NY too timid on mental illness

New York Gov. George Pataki hands a pen

New York Gov. George Pataki hands a pen to Patricia Webdale after signing Kendra's Law on Friday, Aug. 27, 1999, in Albany. Photo Credit: AP

The New York State Legislature's expansion and changes to Kendra's Law, also known as assisted outpatient treatment, or AOT, appear to be positive steps, but fall short of really making a significant impact ["NY State gun law," News, Jan. 20].

The law, originally enacted in 1999, was intended to mandate treatment through court orders for individuals with serious mental illness who might endanger themselves or others due to noncompliance with treatment and medication. However, successful implementation has proved to be a challenge. Many seriously ill individuals still fall through the cracks and commit crimes during periods of treatment noncompliance. The confidentiality provisions of our mental health laws often keep these AOT failures from being revealed to the public.

Why has Kendra's Law not worked as well as intended? Many mental health clinicians are unwilling to initiate AOT because of the burden associated with the paperwork and potential court appearances. The result is that many seriously mentally ill individuals -- who do not comply with treatment and medication, and who may be a danger to themselves and others -- are discharged daily from hospitals, correctional facilities and community clinics without any conditions or supervision.

Jerry Bilinski, Riverhead

Editor's note: The writer works as a mental health case manager.

It was with great disgust that I read that the state signed into law this inadequate legislation for the mentally ill and homeless.

There is nothing wrong with discharging these people into adult homes, where they can be cared for, get the medications they need, a roof over their heads and a warm place to sleep. But this bill gives them no funding and no protection from winter weather.

My wife works for the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, which runs group homes for mentally disabled clients. Many of these adult group homes take steps to incorporate their clients into society.

Larry Cowden, South Hempstead

Someone very close to me has suffered from chronic depression and severe anxiety for more than 30 years, resulting in a roller coaster of treatments with a lack of successful outcomes. We do all we can, but American society just doesn't see the need for continual treatment and holds back the help needed.

The brain seems to be worthy of medical care, and insurance coverage, only if there is a "physical" problem: a tumor, stroke or concussion. However, there are various physical and chemical causes of depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

After any mass murder, it amazes me that people ask how it happened. We allowed it to happen by sins of omission. Apathy is a deadly weapon.

Audrey Joyce, Islip