Lawmakers consider mental illness petitions ahead of special session

June 6—As a special session approaches, some state lawmakers on Wednesday delved into the mechanics of a law that allows a court to order a person with serious mental health problems to participate to outpatient treatment services.

During the July special session, which will focus on public safety, lawmakers are expected to debate whether to expand the list of people who can file a petition to initiate involuntary treatment. As currently written, the law defines who can request that a person be required to participate in assisted outpatient treatment, or AOT for short.

People who can file a petition currently include an adult who lives with an individual; a sibling, child, parent or spouse; someone who treats the person for a mental disorder; the director of a hospital where the person is hospitalized; and the director of a charitable home where the person in question resides. Under a bill proposed by the governor’s office, the list of people eligible to file an AOT petition would expand to include first responders, including police, firefighters and homeless outreach workers, as well as a guardian public or a court-appointed public conservator. among others.

Members of the legislature’s interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee received a copy of the governor’s bill Wednesday and are scheduled to participate in a briefing Thursday with members of the governor’s office on “a possible special legislative session “.

Rep. Christine Chandler, a Los Alamos Democrat who chairs the committee, said the existing AOT law was signed into law around 2016.

“It primarily gives local governments the authority to create programs, in conjunction with the courts, that would mandate certain treatment plans,” she said, adding that only one of the state’s 33 counties, Doña Ana, had such a program in New Mexico. .

The city of Albuquerque used to have one but no longer has one.

“From what we’ve heard, this seems to be an effective program,” she said after hearing a presentation to the committee from Jamie Michael, Doña Ana County Health and Human Services director.

The presentation showed, among other things, a reduction in homelessness, arrests and hospitalizations.

“The question that some legislators are raising, and I agree with it, is why don’t we find a way to encourage other communities to take an approach like that and see what results we get…and see if that will or will not address the concerns that This is the case for many of us, that is, we have people with serious mental health problems, we all care about them, we want to improve their condition and keep them out of the criminal justice system and other contact with the law,” Chandler said.

Asked at the meeting how the existing law could be improved, Michael said the list of petitioners was “pretty limited.”

“If we want to consider a new path to AOT that is linked to the criminal side or the jurisdiction process, then [add] a few more petitioners,” she said. “Always very cautious, but maybe it would be nice if the court or…

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