Forced Outpatient Commitment (commonly referred to as ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ or ‘AOT’) is a type of law allowing for individuals to be forced to take psychiatric medications, attend therapy, etc. against their will, even when living in the community. Massachusetts is currently one of only a small handful of states that have refused to implement this type of law. However, in a devastating blow to local advocates, an ‘AOT Pilot’ was ordered. The decision read as follows:
“The department shall expend not less than $250,000 to develop and implement an assisted outpatient treatment pilot program to treat residents who suffer from serious and persistent mental illness and experience repeated interaction with law enforcement or have a high rate of recurring hospitalization due to their mental illness, either through a voluntary agreement with the resident or by court order mandating that the resident receive the treatment described in this program; provided further, that the department shall report not later than June 1, 2015, to the house and senate committees on ways and means and the joint committee on mental health and substance abuse the progress and results of the pilot program and any identified barriers and challenges to treatment for the aforementioned treatment group.”
The bad news: If someone is already legally involved and has a pending court case, it’s still possible that a judge might order participation in this program as a condition of probation. Additionally, it’s highly questionable that someone in a ‘peer’ role be hired onto this team, as it is a violation of the integrity of that type of role to be involved with force and coercion. However, perhaps the worst news is that – even if this particular use of funds is much less concerning than it could have been– the ground work for implementing a full ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ program in Massachusetts is nonetheless being laid. Any ‘pilot’ creates a slippery slope, and so it will be important that everyone stay tuned and alert for updates and opportunities to advocate against further expansions or moves to implement forced outpatient commitment in the state.