Friday, May 18, 2007

How many tragedies will it take?

Joel Seidel’s tragic death spurred reforms in Camden County’s jails, new diversion programs by police departments, and a federal lawsuit that was recently settled for $4 million. The one area that has yet to enact reforms? New Jersey’s mental health system.

New Jersey is still one of only eight states without the ability to order AOT for individuals who are unable to maintain their treatment in the community. Individuals like Joel Seidel, who according to news reports, had repeatedly refused to take medication for schizophrenia and had failed to complete outpatient treatment programs. An attorney for Seidel’s family explained that they hadn’t posed the $150 bail that would have released him because they were hoping he would be involuntarily committed to get the help he needed. Sadly, he never got that chance. His lifeless body was found about an hour before his scheduled court hearing on his involuntary commitment.

AB 2304, a bill that would finally provide New Jersey the opportunity to help those like Joel Seidel, sits in a committee awaiting action. It should be passed before the next senseless tragedy occurs.

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