Thursday, February 02, 2006

TAC's Battle for Better Treatment Laws

The Treatment Advocacy Center's battle for better treatment laws is highlighted on the front page of the February 1 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

This is an especially impressive placement on such a heavy news day, following the State of the Union and the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice, and shows that the Treatment Advocacy Center has indeed achieved the status of being a major player in the field. And that the issue of assisted treatment warrants this level of coverage.

The article talks about the hard work of Dr. E. Fuller Torrey and TAC to improve treatment laws to help those who are the most ill - those lost to the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It highlights TAC's work to change the laws and the successes we’ve had around the nation.

But it omits many key points – that people with untreated mental illnesses fill our jails and prisons, live homeless and vulnerable on our streets, and are far more often the victims of violent crimes than the perpetrators. That many lack insight into their illness and thus cannot make informed treatment decisions.

It is easy to cast TAC as a villain for being unafraid to include the risk of violence in the list of consequences of lack of treatment. Maybe they wouldn’t have sold as many newspapers if they had actually focused on the research that support these assertions – or read a newspaper.

Many newspapers that same day included the front page story about the woman in California who sprayed bullets through the post office, killing eight people (including herself).

The article also overlooks the real statistics that prove the value of strong assisted treatment laws. Did you know that for those under New York’s Kendra’s Law, 74% fewer experienced homelessness, 77% fewer experienced psychiatric hospitalization, 83% fewer experienced arrest, and 87% fewer experienced incarceration. Individuals in Kendra's Law were also more likely to regularly participate in services and take prescribed medication.

And after receiving treatment, 75% of those interviewed reported that AOT helped them gain control over their lives, 81% said AOT helped them get and stay well, and 90% said AOT made them more likely to keep appointments and take medication.

Those statistics come from the New York Office of Mental Health.