2/17/2006 5:50:00 PM
To: State Desk
Contact: Alicia Aebersold of the Treatment Advocacy Center, at 703 294
6008 or http://releases.usnewswire.com/redir.asp?ReleaseID=61171&Link=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 17 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In the wake of the time
running out on the New Mexico Legislature to enact Kendra's Law,
Representative Joni Marie Gutierrez, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and
other supporters today said they would persist in their work to implement
an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) law in the state.
Kendra's Law legislation, sponsored by Gutierrez, was left unresolved
as the 30-day legislative session ended Thursday. That bill, which had the
support of U.S. Senator Pete Domenici and Governor Bill Richardson,
received favorable approval from every legislative committee that
considered it, and the House voted unanimously (62-0) for passage. But the
Senate did not take a vote before the short session was gaveled to a close
at its constitutionally mandated deadline.
Gutierrez, whose bill was also endorsed by advocacy groups like the New
Mexico chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, vowed to
reintroduce the measure next session. In the meantime, Chavez will
announce as early as next week that he will not wait and will take action
to bring Kendra's Law to Albuquerque as soon as possible.
"I am proud of Representative Gutierrez for her leadership on this
issue and for prompting a much needed debate on Kendra's Law in New
Mexico. I regret that time ran out on the bill this year, but appreciate
the House's unanimous support for the legislation," Domenici said.
"Kendra's Law works in other states. It not only prevents possible crimes
and tragedies, but offers fair and safe treatment for individuals who
suffer from severe mental illnesses. The people of New Mexico need
Kendra's Law. With the strong support this bill received across party
lines, I am hopeful it will become law in New Mexico soon."
"Existing New Mexico law essentially forces people who lack insight
into their illness to hit rock bottom before they can be helped," said
Gutierrez. "It is devastating for families of those lost to the symptoms
of their illness to be told they have to wait another year before they can
get help. I am pleased that the House unanimously supported this important
legislation, and saddened that time ran out before the Senate could vote.
We won't give up. I plan to reintroduce Kendra's Law the first day of the
next session - and know that next year at this time we will have a law
that can help people statewide."
Albuquerque Mayor Chavez is moving forward to ensure that in the
interim, Albuquerque residents will be able to use AOT. In December, he
announced his intent to move ahead, saying "I cannot wait for the state to
act." His message today is the same. "We will fight to get this law for
Albuquerque," said the Mayor. "I will not stand by for a year and wait for
another tragedy. The small number of people who desperately need this
legislation don't have that kind of time. The Senate may have run out of
time - I want to make sure that my citizens do not." That will mean
passing Kendra's Law at the municipal level.
New Mexico is one of only 8 states without an assisted outpatient
treatment law. That means someone too ill to make an informed treatment
decision must be left untreated until they are in a crisis and meet the
state's restrictive standard for inpatient commitment, posing a
"likelihood of serious harm to themselves or others," and then the only
option is hospitalization in a state that, like most, has too few
Proposed legislation (HB174 and SB335) would have allowed courts to
order someone with a severe mental illness into outpatient treatment if a
judge found they met specific requirements. Nationwide statistics show
that AOT laws dramatically reduce hospitalizations, arrests,
incarcerations, episodes of violence, victimizations, homelessness, and
caregiver stress, and improve medication compliance and quality of
"The trend across the country is to rely on the science to make mental
health treatment laws more humane and effective. New Mexico is one step
closer to that goal today," said Mary Zdanowicz, executive director of the
Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to
removing barriers to treatment of severe mental illnesses. "The state has
many reasoned and passionate advocates, led by the New Mexico chapter of
the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, who will not stop until New
Mexico updates its inhumane treatment law. It is just a matter of time.
Unfortunately, when you are struggling to get real help for someone you
love, waiting even one day can be harrowing. We are impressed with all the
local advocates who fight battles for treatment each day, and awed by
their commitment to fix the problem statewide."
Kendra's Law is modeled after and substantially mirrors the law that
created the Kendra's Law program in New York, a program called "extremely
successful " by the Commissioner of New York's Office of Mental Health.
New York's statewide, real-life outcome data show that of those in the
program, 74 percent fewer experienced homelessness, 77 percent less
psychiatric hospitalization, 83 percent fewer arrest, and 87 percent
percent less incarceration. "We know conclusively that the program has
been invaluable for individuals who, without Kendra's Law, previously had
limited success in using voluntary mental health services," noted the
Commissioner in a letter to the New Mexico Secretary of Health.
The Treatment Advocacy Center (http://releases.usnewswire.com/redir.asp?ReleaseID=61171&Link=http://www.psychlaws.org)
is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to timely
and humane treatment for millions of Americans with severe mental
/© 2006 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/