Ohio steps up on mental-health treatment legislation. In the past, only patients who were deemed dangerous could qualify for court-ordered outpatient treatment. Under such rigid rules, many individuals – mentally ill but perhaps high functioning – were slipping through the cracks while their desperate friends and families looked on, unable to mandate any professional help. In many best-case scenarios for these families, their mentally ill loved ones passed the threshold into ‘dangerous’ by some act of violence or potential threat. Though in a worsened state than before, they finally qualified for court-ordered help. In other cases, the individuals deteriorated into a point of no return, sans treatment. They were ignored for no other reason than the fact that they were the unfortunate ones who did not register as ‘dangerous’.
But on June 17, 2014, Ohio changed things. Governor John Kasich signed SB 43 into law. SB 43 contains the components for change. It broadens the scope of civil commitment to include people who face a strong likelihood of further deterioration to the level of ‘substantial risk’ of physical harm to self or others if left untreated. The law also addresses people who are unlikely to commit themselves into treatment despite risks of harm to self or others and people who demonstrate difficulty sticking to prescribed treatment. SB 43 gives leniency to civil commitment laws and flexibility to its parameters, allowing families and friends to have a greater say in the wellbeing of their mentally ill loved ones.
Additionally, SB 43 clears up ambiguities in language of existing laws and clarifies a few specifics. The new law clarifies that courts may order outpatient treatment as a less restrictive alternative to hospitalization (court-ordered outpatient treatment has long been a legal option in Ohio but is rarely used). The new law also explains the types of services outpatient treatment entails, clarifies affidavit usage for families, and specifies that that a correctional facility or jail is not considered a suitable facility for court-ordered treatment.
by Lora Zuo
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