Mental health issues, from minor conditions to serious can go undiagnosed in many patients. When coordinated care between doctors, hospitals, social workers and other providers falls apart, too many individuals with mental illness are put at risk. And unfortunately, as a recent New York Times story on the landmark Kendra’s Law observed, their behavior isn’t only threatening to themselves.
In 1999, Kendra Webdale was thrust onto the New York City subway tracks, where she was struck and killed by an oncoming train. The man who pushed her, Andrew Goldstein, was an untreated individual with schizophrenia. According to the New York Times, Goldstein had been diagnosed with the conditions in his teens, and he’d been on and off of medication in the years since. Kendra’s Law was enacted as a direct result of Webdale’s death. Since then, 45 states, including New York, have created some variation on Kendra’s Law. Still, New York’s is the most developed, according to the Times. And according to a new study led by Duke University researchers, it’s also yielded positive results.
Kendra’s Law reduces costs, improves lives
The study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, found that Kendra’s Law – mandating individuals to receive assisted outpatient treatment when they are not hospitalized – has reduced recidivism as well as the likelihood of patients returning to psychiatric hospitals. Under Kendra’s Law, intensive outpatient treatment has yielded positive outcomes.
Covering the same study, Healthline noted that the researchers examined 634 different patients, each of whom was ordered under the law to participate in an outpatient commitment program. The data shows that in the year before mandated treatment, 553 of the subjects in the study were admitted to psychiatric units. The average cost in medical bills per patient was $104,000. With the program in place, numbers decreases significantly. Only 315 patients were admitted, while costs declined to only $56,803 per patient on average. The Times also reports that prescription adherence and medication refills increased.
Despite its origins, lead study author Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., M.A., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, said the outpatient commitment programs required by Kendra’s Law offer much more than the potential to reduce violent crime by people with mental illnesses. As a state policy, these programs improve case management and save money.