10 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol'y 105 (2003)
No Commitment: Kendra's Law Makes No Promise of Adequate Mental Health Treatment

handle is hein.journals/geojpovlp10 and id is 111 raw text is: Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy
Volume X, Number 1, Winter 2003
No Commitment:
Kendra's Law Makes No Promise of Adequate
Mental Health Treatment
Margo Flug*
On January 3, 1999, Andrew Goldstein, a man with untreated schizophrenia,
pushed a young woman off a New York City subway platform to her death.' Later
that year, believing that a law would prevent similar tragedies, the New York
Legislature passed Kendra's Law,2 named after the victim, Kendra Webdale.3
Kendra's Law established an Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC) pro-
gram,4 through which counties provide court-ordered outpatient treatment to
people who suffer from severe mental illnesses but who are not ill enough to be
committed to a mental hospital. 
Kendra's Law has sparked intense criticism from mental health advocates who
object to its coercive nature and suggest that the Law will not be effective in
securing better services or in improving public safety.6 These critics point out that
before Andrew Goldstein became too ill to recognize a need to stabilize his
symptoms, he had repeatedly requested treatment and support services and that
the State had failed to respond to his requests.7 Rather than coerce more people to
accept treatment, critics argue that the Legislature should force the State to
provide adequate community-based treatment.8 In response to that critique, some
proponents of Kendra's Law acknowledge that the State's outpatient treatment
* The author is a May 2003 J.D. candidate and the Georgetown University Law Center. She wishes to
thank Heathcote Wales, Professor, Georgetown University Law Center, and Michael Allen, Senior Staff
Attorney, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, for their invaluable guidance in writing this note.
1. Michael Winerip, Report Faults Care of Man Who Pushed Woman Onto Tracks, N.Y. TiMES, Nov. 5,
1999, at B 1.
2. 1999 N.Y. Laws 408 § 1.
3. See Winerip, supra note 1.
4. N.Y. MENTAL HYG. LAW § 9.60(a)(4) (McKinney 2002).
5. See 1999 N.Y. Laws 408 § 2.
6. See, e.g., Vicki Fox Smith & Michael Allen, Opening Pandora's Box: The Practical and Legal
Dangers of Involuntary Outpatient Commitment, 52 PSYCHIATRIC SERVICES 342 (March 2001).
7. Winerip, supra note 1.
8. See, e.g., Susan Stefan, Preventive Commitment: The Concept and Its Pitfalls, 11 MENTAL &
PHYSICAL DISABILITY LAW REP. 288-302 (1989); Kendra's Law, Not Ours, at McMan's Depression and
Bipolar Web, http://www.mcmanweb.comlarticle-66.htm (last visited Oct. 11, 2002).

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