This just in:
Governor Charlie Baker vetoed ALL earmarks to the Adult Mental Health and Supportive Services line (5046-0000) totaling $875,000. This includes $250,000 for Senator Donnelly’s “Assisted Outpatient Program” through Eliot Human Services.
The specific language REMOVED from the earmark was as follows:
“…provided further, that the department shall expend not less than $250,000 to continue an assisted outpatient treatment pilot program that began in fiscal year 2015 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 a court order mandating that the resident receive the treatment described in this program; provided further, that the department shall report not later than March 1, 2016 to the house and senate committees on ways and means and the joint committee on mental health and substance abuse on the progress and results of the program and any identified barriers and challenges to treatment for the aforementioned treatment group.”
‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ (or AOT) is essentially forced outpatient commitment, and Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states in the country that continues to not have clear laws of this nature in place. In states where these laws do exist, individuals with psychiatric diagnoses who have been through repeated hospitalizations and/or had legal difficulties can be forced to adhere to a strict regimen of medication, therapy, day programs and other treatment requirements under threat of immediate re-hospitalization if they fail to comply. It’s unclear what Governor Baker’s motivations were for vetoing these earmarks. The stated basis of his decision was as follows: “I am striking language which earmarks funding for programs not recommended, and I am reducing this item to the amount projected to be necessary.” His underlying reason may have been purely financial, or could have been in response to phone calls and other feedback from the community.
Either way, NOW is the time to call your local legislators and ask them NOT TO OVERRIDE the Governor’s decision!