Kendra’s Law (New York Mental Hygiene Law § 9.60) helps New Yorkers with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who are too ill to recognize their need for, or incapable of maintaining, treatment. The program allows a court to order someone who meets very specific criteria into community-based mental health treatment. This court-ordered treatment is called assisted outpatient treatment.
The law is named in memory of Kendra Webdale. In January 1999, the 32-year-old Buffalo native was killed after being pushed into the path of a New York City subway train by Andrew Goldstein, a man with severe mental illness who had a history of noncompliance with treatment. Goldstein is now in prison (25 years to life).
Kendra’s Law passed the legislature by an overwhelming majority (Senate 49-2, Assembly 142-4) and was signed into law by New York Gov. George Pataki on August 9, 1999. When it took effect on Nov. 8, 1999, Kendra’s Law made New York the 41st state to have assisted outpatient treatment.
Kendra's Law was renewed for another five years June 30, 2005 by an even greater majority (Senate 60-0, Assembly 144-1). Opponents and supporters alike agreed on extension – and also on the fact that the law has been sporadically applied throughout the state. The counties that are using the law are seeing striking results – so almost half of the improvements to the law wisely focus on ensuring its broader application so that others can also reap its benefits. The changes include creating new classes of authorized petitioners, slightly expanding the program’s eligibility criteria, explicitly permitting the enforcement of an AOT order outside the issuing county, and creating a judicial education program that will teach judges and their staffs to more effectively administer the law.
Since its passage, data from the New York State Office of Mental Health indicate Kendra's Law is a stunning success. (See the box to the right and the links below.)
There were dire predictions that 10,000 people a year would be swept into Kendra's law, but less than 1,000 individuals are enrolled each year. Details of people served indicate that less than 1/2 of 1 percent of New Yorkers with severe mental illnesses have been served under court order.
Not only did it help the individuals in the program, but the report notes "there was broad recognition that implementation of the processes to provide AOT to high risk/high need recipients has resulted in beneficial structural changes to local mental health delivery systems. ... AOT has increased accountability at all levels regarding delivery of services to individuals who have high needs and who are at high risk to themselves or others."
IN THE COURTS
Kendra's Law has also withstood numerous court challenges, including two in which its core provisions were explicitly found to be constitutional.
More details and information follow. As always, please contact us if we can be of service, or for more information or details.
- BRIEFING PAPER Treatment Advocacy Center (March 2005). Assisted outpatient treatment: Results from New York's Kendra's Law
- PRESS RELEASE Treatment Advocacy Center (March 2005). Report shows success of New York's Kendra's Law
- FINAL REPORT N.Y. State Office of Mental Health (March 2005). Kendra's Law: Final report on the status of assisted outpatient treatment
- BRIEFING PAPER Treatment Advocacy Center (March 2005). Assisted outpatient treatment reduces hospital stays, violence and arrests and improves chances of recovery for people with severe mental illnesses
- A guide to Kendra's Law [summary of the provisions of the law in Q&A format]
- Full text of Kendra's Law [Article 9, Hospitalization of the Mentally Ill, see 9.60 for Kendra's Law]
- Forms for court proceedings [for petitioners]
- AOT state and OMH facility contacts
- DATABASE Preventable tragedies [search by state for New York incidents]
- FACT SHEET Myths about assisted treatment
- Sharon E. Carpinello, RN, PhD, commissioner, New York State Office of Mental Health: Letter on the value of Kendra's Law
- William Martin, Esq., general counsel for mental hygeine, City of New York Department of Mental Hygeine: Letter on the value of Kendra's Law
- Dr. Mary Barber, AOT provider: Kendra's Law works and should be renewed (Albany Times Union, May 15, 2005)
- Pat Webdale, mother of Kendra: Subway victim's legacy must not be allowed to die (Buffalo News, May 4, 2005)
- Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, national expert: Remembering Kendra (New York Post, April 18, 2005)
- J. David Seay, executive director, NAMI NY State: Testimony on Kendra's Law
- Jeff Keller, deputy director, NAMI NY State. Testimony on Kendra's Law
- Arlene Steinberg, mother: Testimony on Kendra's Law
- Ron Honberg, legal director, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill: Testimony on Kendra's Law
- Marvin Swartz, professor of psychiatry at Duke University and AOT researcher: Testimony on Kendra's Law
- Suzanne Webdale Johnson, sister of Kendra: Testimony on Kendra's Law
- Mary Zdanowicz, executive director, Treatment Advocacy Center: Testimony on Kendra's Law
- ARTICLE Kendra's Law: The culmination of a 10-year battle for assisted outpatient treatment in New York [Chronology of Kendra's Law and its passage] (Treatment Advocacy Center)
- NEWS (July 10, 2006): Duke researchers selected to evaluate Kendra's Law - second evaluation to complement indepth regular evaluation by NY's Office of Mental Health
- STATEMENT July 1, 2005. TAC executive director Mary Zdanowicz says: Kendra's Law renewed: Victory belongs to program participants. “[John] has been hospitalized more than a dozen times,” explains Stephanie. “[He] is unable to see that when he stops taking his medication he becomes psychotic and within a matter of days ... becomes so ill that he has to be rehospitalized. What [he] has been able to understand, however, is that when he is in the Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program and under a court order, if he violates it ... he will be rehospitalized … [John] takes his AOT program and its court order very seriously. It is the only thing that has worked ….
- PRESS RELEASE March 9, 2005: Report shows success of New York's Kendra's Law. "We knew that Kendra's Law would save lives," said Pat Webdale, mother of Kendra Webdale, for whom New York's law was named. "But we are amazed to see how dramatic those numbers really are. When Kendra was killed by a man with a long history fo untreated schizophrenia, the grief we felt was unspeakable. In the course of advocating for a law that would prevent similar tragedies, we learned that assisted outpatient treatment can save both the lives of people like my daughter and the lives of those imprisoned by brain diseases. It is gratifying to see the big difference Kendra's Law is making."
- PRESS RELEASE March 7, 2005 Governor introduces bill to make Kendra's Law permanent
- PRESS RELEASE Aug. 27, 1999 Advocates praise Governor Pataki, Assembly Speaker Silver, Attorney General Spitzer and Webdale family for passing Kendra’s Law (NY Treatment Advocacy Coalition)
- PRESS RELEASE Aug. 5, 1999 Assembly passes "Kendra's Law": Measure to benefit individuals living with mental illness, their families and public (NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver)
- STATEMENT Aug. 3, 1999 Kendra's Law will improve quality of life for every New Yorker (Treatment Advocacy Center)
- STATEMENT Aug. 3, 1999 Statement by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer regarding the leaders' agreement on Kendra's Law (Treatment Advocacy Center)
- STATEMENT June 16, 1999 New York legislators should stand tall: Don't fail the mentally ill by letting the clock run out on Kendra's Law (Treatment Advocacy Center
- STATEMENT June 16, 1999 Governor Pataki, Senate Leader Joe Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Silver should honor their commitment to pass Kendra's Law before legislature adjourns (NY Treatment Advocacy Coalition)
- STATEMENT May 19, 1999 Assisted outpatient treatment will help reduce preventable episodes of violence, homelessness and incarceration in New York (Treatment Advocacy Center)
- STATEMENT April 5, 1999 New York must pass "Kendra’s Law" to prevent future episodes of violence by individuals with untreated severe mental illnesses (Treatment Advocacy Center)
- STATEMENT Jan. 28, 1999 New York must strengthen assisted treatment laws for mentally ill (Treatment Advocacy Center)
- STATEMENT Jan. 28, 1999 New York stands at crossroads of success or failure: NYS must expand outpatient commitment statewide for individuals with severe psychiatric illnesses (NY Treatment Advocacy Coalition)
- STATEMENT Jan. 28, 1999 Spitzer unveils plan to ensure that mentally ill take prescribed medication (NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer)
- STATEMENT Jan. 4, 1999 New York must strengthen assisted treatment laws for mentally ill to prevent tragic episodes of violence (Treatment Advocacy Center)
NEWS ARTICLE ARCHIVE
- NEWS Aug. 17, 2001 Brother of 'Kendra's Law' announced; Advocacy groups might support idea (Mental Health Report)
- NEWS July/Aug. 2001 Assisted outpatient treatment: Review of New York case law - and beyond (Correctional Mental Health Report)
- NEWS June 19, 2001 NY law breaks grounds in court-ordered care (USA Today)
- OPED March 1, 2001 Courts must be able to order help (Baltimore Sun)
- NEWS Feb. 12, 2001 Families lobby to force treatment (USA Today)
- NEWS May 7, 2000 A right that could be wrong (60 Minutes)
- NEWS Feb. 25, 2000 Kendra's Law fearmongers (New York Post)
- EDITORIAL June 1, 1999 Pass Kendra's Law (New York Daily News)
- OPED May 30, 1999 Mental illness causes Pataki and Silver to agree (Albany Times Union)
- OPED May 28, 1999 A right to mental illness? (New York Post)
- RESOURCE New York Treatment Advocacy Coalition
- RESOURCE New York State Assembly
- RESOURCE New York State Office of Mental Health
- NEW YORK MEDIA The New York Times
- NEW YORK MEDIA The Wall Street Journal
- NEW YORK MEDIA The New York Daily News
- NEW YORK MEDIA Newsday
- NEW YORK MEDIA New York Post
- NEW YORK MEDIA Links to all newspapers in New York