Is Kendra’s Law Failing to Help the Seriously Mentally Ill It Was Created For?

An investigation reveals that legislation known as Kendra’s Law, that has been held up as a national model for the treatment and handling of the seriously mentally ill by forcing them into treatment programs when necessary, is failing, Amy Julia Harris and Jan Ransom report for the New York Times. The investigation found that people under Kendra’s Law orders have been accused of committing more than 380 subway shovings, beatings, stabbings and other violent acts in the past five years alone, more than a third of which took place in New York City. In addition, more than 90 people have killed themselves while subject to Kendra’s Law orders in the past decade.

Together, their cases suggest that the program has often struggled to treat those who are the most difficult to reach, with many of the failures traced to a lack of funding that has left treatment teams overworked and underpaid. Matthew Shapiro, a senior director of government affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in New York, placed blame on caseloads that are unmanageable and unreasonable for treatment teams. Other failures stemmed from a reluctance among some teams to seek involuntary hospitalizations for people who go missing or stop taking their medications. Meanwhile, eighty-five percent of the attempts to use Kendra’s Law to hospitalize people against their will in New York City did not result in hospital admissions. 

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