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Debate Over Outpatient Commitment, Involuntary Care

Debate Over Outpatient Commitment, Involuntary Care

When the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill launched its Treatment Advocacy Center (NTAC) last month, its avowed purpose was to "push for timely and effective treatment for the estimated 2.2 million individuals with severe psychiatric disorders who don't get care when they most need it."

A separate support organization with its own source of funding, NTAC will "support education, research, legal and legislative efforts to promote treatment for individuals with the most serious brain disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder."

For some critics, however, the lofty goals are merely a smoke screen for NTAC's main agenda, which is to broaden the state's ability to impose involuntary treatment on unwilling "consumers," including expansion of outpatient commitment programs. While there is broad-ranging support for increased resources for the mentally ill, the degree to which innovations should include mandated care has re-ignited a long-standing debate over whose civil rights are actually being trampled-those individuals who are forced to receive care, or those who are denied care even though they desperately need it.


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