(WNY News Now) – An audit released by the New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, exposes negligence in the oversight of court-ordered treatment for individuals under Kendra’s Law, highlighting the urgent need for improvements in service delivery and communication within the mental health system.
Kendra’s Law, enacted in 1999 to facilitate court-ordered Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) for individuals with serious mental illness, faces criticism as the audit suggests lapses in oversight that may have severe consequences. DiNapoli emphasized the critical role of the Office of Mental Health (OMH) in preventing harm amid the current mental health crisis.
The audit scrutinized 46 AOT cases, revealing that while the majority received timely court-ordered treatment, a delay in one case resulted in catastrophic consequences. The patient’s first meeting with a provider occurred almost a month after treatment was ordered, contributing to an arrest for homicide. Communication breakdowns between caregivers, incomplete information, and delays in reporting significant events were identified as systemic issues.
Local mental health authorities, responsible for investigating AOT referrals, often exceeded the benchmark timeframe of six months, with some investigations taking over two years. The lack of defined timelines raises concerns about the efficiency of the process.
Additionally, the audit found discrepancies in data entries for significant events, with 22% of the events showing issues. The failure to report 47 significant events to local mental health authorities further highlighted gaps in information sharing.
Renewal of AOT orders, crucial for ongoing treatment, faced lapses as local authorities failed to complete required case reviews. In 62% of the cases reviewed, no evidence of a review was found before treatment expiration, leading to temporary lapses ranging from 34 to 198 days.
The audit recommended that OMH establish timeframe guidelines for investigations, collect data on service connection times, improve reporting on significant events, and ensure timely renewal of services to prevent lapses. OMH, in response, generally agreed with the recommendations and outlined plans to address the identified issues.