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Kentucky House Committee Passes Outpatient Mental Health Bill

flickr creative commons Allan Ajifo

Legislation to mandate outpatient mental health treatment in Kentucky is going before the full House.  The measure won committee approval Thursday from the House Health and Welfare Committee.  Advocate Sheila Shuster says it would apply to people who have been involuntarily committed twice and don’t understand they have an illness.

“The court could order an evaluation and order the person to outpatient treatment and then monitored that they’re compliant with the treatment protocol,” Shuster explained.  “In other words, taking their medications, seeing their therapist and so forth.”

Shuster says the aim is to reduce hospital readmissions through monitoring by a case management team.  “What we hope is really what they call the black robe effect: that being in a court where a judge says 'you will in fact do this because this is in your best interest and we’re gonna monitor and make sure that you do this' we’re hoping would give an added impetus to people,” said Shuster.

Shuster estimates the cost of implementing a focused program would be about $1.5 million over two years.  She says initially about 25 people would be included in the program.

Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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