Alert: Call Albany Today! Buffalo News, Gannett Op Eds Vs Kendra's Law Expansion

NYAPRS Note: With only two weeks left in this year’s NYS Legislative session, we need another round of calls to make clear to our state leaders the level of opposition that exists to proposals to expand Kendra’s Law and make it permanent. Advocates continue to make their voices heard in local opinion columns across New York (see today’s columns below): Please Join Their Efforts and Generate Hundreds of Calls Today!



GOVERNOR CUOMO AT 518-474-8390



and leave the following message

“I’m a registered voter calling from (your locality) urging you to oppose proposals to expand Kendra’s Law

or make it permanent and to instead support true service improvements”



Another Voice: Less-Costly Options Exist Than Expansion of Legislation

By Maura Kelley and Harvey Rosenthal

Buffalo News  June 12, 2012


We take issue with several of Lynne Shuster’s assertions in her recent piece on the controversy over expanding Kendra’s Law. Fourteen leading statewide mental health and disability advocacy groups join Phil Endress and the Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors in opposing such an expansion.


Joined by a number of family advocates, our groups oppose these proposals not because, as was suggested, we want to avoid serving our most vulnerable but because we are united in seeking better, more affordable, strategies.


These include several proposals developed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team and approved by state legislators, like Regional Behavioral Health Organizations that are making sure that hospitals come up with better discharge plans and Medicaid Health Homes that require teams of providers to follow up closely to help avoid relapse-related crises.


These approaches are fully paid for, some with 90 percent federal funding, and will reach 1 million vulnerable people statewide while the Kendra’s Law expansion would almost double the program’s $32 million cost to reach a very small fraction.


Further, the person who caused Kendra Webdale’s tragic death was not avoiding care and requiring court-ordered treatment. He had repeatedly sought help that never came – help that is now available through these new “feet on the street” approaches that are getting thousands of at-risk individuals the help they need. Court-ordered care has yet to be scientifically demonstrated to be the reason for improved results associated with Kendra’s Law.


That is one of the reasons why lawmakers have shied away from expanding Kendra’s Law or making it permanent three times since its 1999 passage. Studies have yet to compare court-ordered and voluntary care even though 28 upstate counties have had great results favoring a voluntary approach rather than relying on court orders.


Finally, we must object to violent depictions used by proponents to gain support by presenting Kendra’s Law as a public safety measure. Despite lurid front-page coverage of rare tragic events, the facts are that people diagnosed with major mental illnesses are actually 11 times more likely to be victims of violence. We deserve more and better directed treatment, not more involvement with judges and police who are already overburdened with their primary duties.


We hope that lawmakers will continue to withhold support for Kendra’s Law expansion and instead continue to focus on smarter, stronger solutions.


(Maura Kelley is a recipient of mental health services, Director of Mental Health Peer Connection of the Western New York Independent Living, board member of NYAPRS. Mental Health Empowerment Project, and the New York State Independent Living Council. Harvey Rosenthal is a member of New York’s Medicaid Redesign Team, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) and a person diagnosed with a mental illness who has been a NY based provider and advocate for the past 36 years.)



Guest Viewpoint: Kendra's Law Violates Rights of Mentally Ill

Written by Myra Kovary, Steven Periard and Larry Roberts

Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin, Ithaca Journal June 12, 2012 


The May 18 Guest Viewpoint by DJ Jaffe titled "Changes to Kendra's Law would aid more who need it" makes a case for a new piece of legislation called Kendra's Law Improvement Act. It which would allow courts to mandate programs for people diagnosed with mental illness whose court mandate under existing law has expired, the individual has moved away beyond the court's jurisdiction, or is released from incarceration and placed back in the community. The existing law, called Kendra's Law, allows courts to mandate treatment for people who are diagnosed with a mental illness as a requirement to remain in the community.


If one is able to look beyond the stereotypes of the so-called "mentally ill," one might see the existing law - and its proposed extension - as a clear violation of an individual's civil rights, and one would be right.


But Jaffe doesn't see it that way. To him, and those like-minded, this is a matter of protecting the individual from harming himself or herself and/or the community. A noble cause, to be sure, were its foundation not built on the unsteady ground of fear and ignorance.


First, Jaffe's knowledge of people diagnosed with mental illness is relegated to antiquated stereotypes. To quote: "As a result of their untreated illness, they don't 'think' they are the Messiah- they 'know' it." He might as well have included an illustration of a crazy person dressed like Napoleon to support his argument. It would have been equally baseless and ignorant.


Second, Jaffe asserts that the new law would help people stay in treatment, an argument that supposes a person diagnosed with a mental illness cannot recover and will need treatment long-term, perhaps for the rest of his or her life. Even the existing law, obviously somewhat more informed, proposes a time limit on the mandate.


Third, Jaffe cites statistics to support his argument for countering violent behavior under Kendra's Law, though he does not offer sources for these statistics. Instead he uses the obligatory phrase "a recent study found..." If fear of violence is the impetus for this new law, its logic runs counter to a recent article published on the National Institute for Mental Health's (NIMH) website, which states that "Most people with SMI [Severe Mental Illness] are not violent, and most violent acts are not committed by people with SMI. In fact, people with SMI are actually at higher risk of being victims of violence than perpetrators." The article goes on to state that "those with SMI are 11 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population."

As a result of policies enacted through Kendra's Law and legislation that supports it, we are also more likely to lose our civil rights in the guise of protecting ourselves and the public.


We don't presume to speak for Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, the New York State Office of Mental Health, the Conference of Mental Hygiene Directors, and a total of 16 organizations who oppose the bill. But if they do not see this as a civil rights violation, then certainly they must at the very least view this legislation as counterproductive and not worthy of their support.


Kovary, Periard and Roberts are members of the Ithaca Mental Patients Advocacy Coalition (IMPAC).