New legislation seeks to facilitate treatment for mental illness

    Legislation pending in Harrisburg could make it easier to order people to get treatment for mental illness. Pennsylvania state representatives heard testimony on the issues today during a public hearing in Philadelphia.

    Legislation pending in Harrisburg could make it easier to order people to get treatment for mental illness. Pennsylvania state representatives heard testimony on the issues today during a public hearing in Philadelphia.

    Under current Pennsylvania law, courts can order people with mental illness to receive treatment in an out-patient or inpatient setting. The criteria for both are the same – people must present a clear and present danger to themselves or others. So – once those criteria are met, most people end up being committed to a hospital. The proposed legislation would loosen the standard for ordering outpatient treatment by adding the word “likely” into the mix.

    Jeanette Costello’s daughter has a severe mental illness – but didn’t acknowledge her illness for a long time. Costello says she had to stand by when her daughter stopped taking her medications, and watch as her condition got worse :

    Costello: That decompensation included hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, my hands were tied there was nothing we could do until she did something dangerous.

    Costello says the new legislation would allow people to get into treatment before they got that bad.

    Robert Meek of Pennsylvania’s Disability Rights Network opposes the legislation. He says many people are not getting help because of a lack of funding for mental health services – and this proposal would not improve that:

    Meek: There are a lot more intensive services that could and should be provided to people were there sufficient funding these bills add nothing to that, in fact they add another layer of bureaucracy, which seems to me a complete waste of money and adds no funding for added services.

    Opponents of the legislation also say it violates patients’ civil rights.

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