Perhaps the most consequential proposed legislation to fly almost completely under news media radar at the end of session has been a bipartisan bill that would amend and upgrade Kendra’s Law, which allows judges in certain situations to force people with serious mental illness to undergo treatment.
Mental health advocate D.J. Jaffe has laid out a case for enactment of the Kendra’s Law Improvement Act, sponsored by Sen. Catherine Young (R-Olean) and Assemblywoman Aileen Guenther (D-Forestburgh), and he has now followed up with this budgetary impact analysis.
Jaffe estimates that Kendra’s Law, first enacted in 1999, has saved $109 million through a reduction of incarceration and hospitalization costs. By identifying more people who could benefit from Assisted Outpatient Treatment, the proposed improvements to the law could lead to greater savings, he says, estimated the net cost of the program improvement would a relatively paltry $329,000.
New York spends massively on mental health services, but Jaffe contends the state has its priorities backwards:
The least ill go to the head of the line while the most seriously ill are offloaded to shelters, jails, prisons, and morgues — off the mental health budget and onto the more expensive criminal justice budget. The mental health industry knows this is happening, but won’t do anything about it.
While the bill is favored by the Alliance for Mental Illness, it is opposed by mental health providers, including the Mental Health Association of New York State.