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A Decade of Advocacy Culminates in AOT Implementation

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(April 25, 2012) It took years of legislative advocacy and delay, but people with untreated severe mental illness who meet New Jersey’s criteria for participation at last may be able to receive assisted outpatient treatment, at least in a five counties.

New_JerseyThe New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services has named the five counties that will receive funds for implementing assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), called involuntary outpatient commitment or IOC in New Jersey. With the funding, Warren, Essex, Hudson, Union and Burlington counties will be offering assisted outpatient treatment not later than June 1.

New Jersey's law – sometimes called “Gregory’s Law” for 11-year-old Gregory Katsnelson, who was killed by a man with untreated schizophrenia – provides a new treatment option for qualifying individuals. Under it, people with severe and persistent mental illness who are unable to seek treatment voluntarily will be eligible to receive involuntary treatment in the community if a court finds they “will become, in the foreseeable future, dangerous enough due to mental illness to require supervision” but are not yet so imminently dangerous that they require inpatient hospitalization.

New Jersey significantly reformed its mental illness treatment law on August 11, 2009, when Gov. John Corzine signed Senate Bill 735 into law. Torrey Advocacy Commendation recipients Senator Richard Codey, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Gregory Katsnelson’s parents, Cathy and Mark, were among the countless advocates who battled for years to give state residents a way to better help those who refuse treatment because of incapacitating mental illness. The law was slated to be implemented in August, 2010, but Gov. Chris Christie delayed implementation, citing budget constraints.

Now, almost three years after passage, the state is taking steps to implement the law, and an additional treatment option will be available to some individuals in New Jersey who are in psychiatric crisis and meet the state’s strict criteria.

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