Five More Years Of Kendra’s Law Probable

Five more years of the infamous Kendra’s Law in New York State it appears likely are on the horizon. Kendra’s Law is an involuntary outpatient commitment law some New York legislators are intent on extending. This law would have certain people under court order to follow mental health treatment plans. Almost without exception these treatment plans involve the taking of potentially brain damaging psychiatric drugs. The story behind the legislative battle over this law can be found at legislativegazette.com, Extension of Kendra’s Law Likely.

As the controversial Kendra’s Law sunsets this June, opponents and proponents of the law alike seem on the brink of a compromise –– extending the law for an additional five years rather than making it permanent now or allowing it to expire altogether.

The situation could be worse. Some people want to make the law permanent.

“I thought it should be extended indefinitely and no more sunset, but at this point I think it’s going to be extended,” [Aileen] Gunther predicted.

That a clinical label should divide citizens from their constitutionally guaranteed rights, in the interests of protecting public safety, is the concern here. ‘Mental illness’ labels, after all, don’t automatically eject people so labeled from the human species. You have to remember that people who have been labeled ‘mentally ill’, whom we would be protecting the general public from, are also members of that same public.

Economics, and the current budgetary crisis, are in part behind the reluctance to make Kendra’s law a permanent part of New York politics.

“Considering the state’s current budget crisis, this is not the time to expand services — and it is also not the time to introduce costly and unproven improvements to a law that is working,” Mental Health Commissioner Michael F. Hogan said.

Medical treatment should never be a punishment imposed by a court of law. Convicting people of the possibility of commiting a crime at some time in the future, suspending the presumption of innocense, constitutes an infringement of these same people’s right to due process.

Hopefully legislators in New York will begin to see the threat to American democracy that such legislation represents for what it actually is, and cease to vote to extend this unconstitutional law at some point in the future.