New York’s Poor Job on Mental Illness

The Story

Nearly 20 years ago, Kendra Webdale was pushed to her death by Andrew Goldstein, a seriously mentally ill man known to be dangerous when not medicated. Last month, Goldstein walked free after serving most of his sentence, but he remains a prisoner of his condition. Kendra’s Law, inspired by Webdale’s death, can force seriously mentally ill people to receive assisted-outpatient treatment. But these services are unevenly available in New York City, and the renewal of Kendra’s Law is uncertain.

The Facts You Need to Know

  1. Help: Assisted-outpatient treatment (AOT) reduces incarceration and homelessness of seriously mentally ill people by up to 70%. Read more.

  2. Beds: Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to shrink the state’s in-patient mental health treatment capacity, which will leave seriously mentally ill people without recourse, especially in the absence of an effective AOT program. Read more.

  3. Thrive: Only 20% of Mayor de Blasio’s $850 million mental health plan, ThriveNYC, is spent on those with the most severe mental illnesses. Read more.

“Kendra’s Law forces mental-health programs to do what they won’t do voluntarily: accept the most serious cases.”

DJ Jaffe, Manhattan Institute adjunct fellow, Executive Director of Mental Illness Policy Org.

DJ Jaffe and Stephen Eide join John Stossel to talk about how America’s health-care system fails the severely mentally ill in cities across the country.

Twitter Take

The Past is Present

A Successful Experiment By E. Fuller Torrey (Winter 1999)

“Psychiatrically ill homeless people wander through New York City’s streets in such sad profusion for a reason: New York doesn’t have an outpatient commitment law. Outpatient commitment lets people with severe psychiatric disorders live in the community if they comply with the prescribed treatment that prevents their illness’s symptoms from recurring.”

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