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Vitale Statement On Involuntary Outpatient Commitment Hearing

TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, issued the following statement regarding a committee hearing today on S-2760, a bill which revises guidelines for involuntary commitment for the mentally ill into outpatient treatment programs:

“Today, we heard good testimony on both sides of the issue of involuntary commitment and our State’s response to mental illness. It is evident that there is a deep commitment from both proponents and opponents of involuntary outpatient commitment to the welfare of those suffering from mental disorders.

“The hearing today allowed us to listen to all of the issues as we look at how to construct a system of treatment that will fairly meet the needs of the mentally ill, as well as their families, friends, and the surrounding community.

“Involuntary outpatient commitment, as it is being proposed, would affect only a small population of the mental health care consumers in the State that are considered a danger to their community, to their families and to themselves. It would provide an intervening step, before mental illness has progressed to such a point that the only options are incarceration or institutionalization.

“It is also important to note that involuntary commitment is not new in New Jersey. We’ve had commitment laws on the books before, but as many of the speakers pointed out, an outpatient treatment program would allow mental health care consumers a chance at recovery without the stress associated with the deprivation of freedom that characterizes inpatient treatment programs, such as mental hospitals.

“We will continue to work with advocates from the mental health community, on either side of this issue, to ensure that the State’s response to outpatient commitment is fair and measured. I am confident that with compassionate, dedicated individuals coming to the table in good faith, we will be able to vastly improve the State’s mental health picture, and provide for enhanced recovery options for those living with mental illness.”