House Committee Approves $15 Million to Expand Treatment for Severe Mental Illness

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Assisted outpatient treatment programs connect people with services rather than abandoning them to jails or the streets, said the Treatment Advocacy Center

AOT is a critical lifeline for people with severe mental illness who are too ill to volunteer for treatment.

The House Appropriations Committee has approved $15 million in funding to help local mental health systems establish and implement assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) programs nationwide. This marks the first time Congress has approved funding for court-ordered treatment in the community for people with severe mental illness.

“AOT is a critical lifeline for people with severe mental illness who are too ill to volunteer for treatment but who could live successfully in the community with it,” said John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center. “These programs connect people with services rather than abandoning them to jail or the streets.”

Multiple independent studies have shown that AOT reduces violence, incarceration, homelessness and repeat hospitalization among people with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder. The program also vastly reduces overall costs of public services associated with severe mental illness.

“Lawmakers are finally making fiscal decisions that will benefit the most severely ill and save taxpayers money,” Snook continued. “This funding will help ensure the mental health system is committed to patients who need help the most.”

The $15 million will help communities in the 45 states that already have AOT laws on the books implement the program by providing seed money for up to 50 programs nationwide.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs deemed the intervention to be an effective and evidence-based practice for reducing crime and violence in 2012. Both the National Sheriffs’ Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have passed resolutions in support of the use of AOT. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration added AOT to its National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices in 2015.

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The Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness. The organization promotes laws, policies and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The organization does not accept funding from the pharmaceutical industry. The American Psychiatric Association awarded the Treatment Advocacy Center its 2006 presidential commendation for "sustained extraordinary advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable mentally ill patients who lack the insight to seek and continue effective care and benefit from assisted outpatient treatment.”

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Jamie Mondics
Treatment Advocacy Center
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