Friday, May 02, 2008

A Benefit of Outpatient Commitment Often Overlooked – Preventing Victimization

On Saturday night, Troy Green's body was found on the sidewalk in a crime-prone section of Los Angeles. The 23-year-old had been shot and then died alone.Green’s sister Lillian knew that his mental illness, which she believed to be paranoid schizophrenia, left him vulnerable to harm on the dangerous streets he refused to leave. A few hours after her brother’s death a police officer came to Lillian Green’s door. “The officer got out only two words – ‘your brother’ -- and she broke down and cried.”

Lillian Green also commented on California’s restrictive commitment laws: "It shouldn't be that way. It should be based on whether they need help."

A group of published research articles collectively know as the Duke Studies are the largest and most respected of the controlled examinations of assisted outpatient treatment (AOT). The Duke Studies proved the remarkable benefits of assisted outpatient treatment for people overcome by severe mental illnesses to the point of being incapable of maintaining obviously needed treatment.

Some of the findings from the Duke Studies have more prominence than others. Best known are the eye-opening reductions in hospitalizations, arrests and violent acts.

The researchers found that assisted outpatient treatment for 6 months or more combined with routine outpatient services (3 or more outpatient visits per month):

· Reduced hospitalizations by 57% and the average length of hospital stays by 20 days;

· Slashed arrests by almost three-quarters (12% versus 45%) for a subgroup with a history of multiple hospitalizations as well as prior arrests and/or violent behavior; and

· Cut violent incidents by those in AOT in half (24% versus 48%).

Placed far less often in the public’s eye is another of the Duke researchers’ core findings – AOT can stop people rendered vulnerable by untreated psychiatric illness from becoming the prey of criminals.

AOT also decreased victimization by 43%. Over one year, 42% of those in the Duke control group were victims of crimes like rape, theft, mugging, or burglary versus only 24% of those in AOT for 6 months or more who had routine services.