Outpatient mental health commitment law would help patients [Letter]

I am glad the legislature is considering a law for outpatient mental health commitment. ("Legislation pushes involuntary mental health treatment," March 10). It is understandable that there is opposition by some, including health organizations. But this will help to air both sides of the issue in the legislative committee hearings.

While some people regard this kind of law with alarm, it is important to note that 37 states and the District of Columbia currently have such laws. All of these laws involve a judge making the decision based upon review of both sides of the patient's case. Such a process assures protection of the patient's rights to the best extent we have available.

The outpatient commitment laws are an extension of the well-established inpatient commitment laws. Many patients upon discharge from the hospital stop their medications and become psychotic again, and a danger to themselves or others. They become part of the "revolving door" by which discharged patients are very soon readmitted to the hospital. Under the proposed law, a patient with such a history could be evaluated by the court prior to discharge, and a decision on whether to commit to outpatient treatment could be made at that time.

An outpatient commitment law would provide a much broader safety net to maintain the improvement patients make in the hospital.

Dr. Frederick Knowles, Chestertown

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