An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to enhance and streamline the state's involuntary outpatient commitment program to ensure that those in need of mental health assistance are receiving it.
Specifically, the bill (A-2189) would establish standards for those who are in need of involuntary commitment to outpatient treatment because their mental illness, as demonstrated by recent acts, could, if untreated, reasonably result in the deterioration of their mental condition to the point which they will become dangerous to themselves, others, or property and they have been unwilling to voluntarily accept appropriate treatment after it has been offered.
"In order for our involuntary outpatient commitment program to be truly effective, we need to ensure that we have the right criteria in place to properly gauge whether an individual is in need of this form of intervention," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "The provisions of this bill will ensure that mental health professionals have the proper guidelines to assess and treat a person in the midst of a mental health crisis."
Factors to be considered by mental health screeners when recommending involuntary outpatient commitment under the bill include whether the person: has a history of lack of compliance with treatment; has demonstrated acts of serious violent behavior to self, others, or property; has threatened or attempted harm within the past four years; or is unlikely to voluntarily comply with treatment because of a mental illness.
"For someone suffering with a serious mental health issue, the notion of being involuntarily forced to do something can often compound their existing issues," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This bill will ensure that the proper guidelines are in place so that the situation is handled as delicately as possible and that those most in need of treatment receive it."
The bill also sets forth criteria the court is required to meet to issue a temporary order for involuntary outpatient commitment after an initial period of treatment in a short-term care facility.
The legislation was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee chaired by Vainieri Huttle.