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Gusciora Bill to Ensure Individuals with Mental Illnesses Receive Necessary Treatment Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) for individuals with mental illnesses to receive treatment was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

“An untreated mental illness can lead to harmful behavior,” said Gusciora. “If a person with a mental disorder is unwilling to get the help they need, the courts should be able to step in to make sure the person gets the necessary treatment so that they do not become a threat to themselves or others.”

Current law allows counties in New Jersey to implement the involuntary commitment to outpatient treatment program, however only six counties have adopted and are benefitting from the law. The bill would extend some of the benefits of this law to counties that do not have the program by allowing the courts to order involuntary commitment to outpatient treatment in any county in the state.

The bill (A-2685) provides that in any county in which the involuntary commitment to outpatient treatment program has not been implemented, a court may assign a patient who has been determined to be in need of involuntary commitment to treatment, to an outpatient treatment provider in the county. In addition, if taking medication is included in the patient’s outpatient treatment plan, and the prescribing physician is concerned that the patient is not taking his or her medication, the physician may order medication to be administered by a periodic depot dosage. Depot dosage is defined as a form of medication that can be stored in a patient’s body for several days or weeks.

Outpatient treatment may include, but not be limited to day treatment services, case management, residential services, outpatient counseling and psychotherapy, medical treatment and alcohol and drug addiction services.

“This is about getting people struggling with a mental illness or addiction the help they need,” said Gusciora. “It does not serve them, and it does not serve the public to let these conditions worsen to the point where these individuals can become a potential danger to themselves and public safety.”

The bill was released by the Assembly Human Services Committee.