After the horrific tragedy in Newtown some blogs have published false, misleading and distorted information about so-called "outpatient commitment" legislation in the 2012 session of the Connecticut General Assembly and the ACLU of Connecticut's role in opposing it. These are the facts about Senate Bill 452, An Act Concerning the Care and Treatment of Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities:
The ACLU of Connecticut opposed the bill and submitted written testimony against it but did not "kill" the legislation. The bill failed to make it out of committee after dozens of individuals and organizations opposed it.
Opposition to the bill came from across the political spectrum. Among the opponents were the National Association of Social Workers, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Patricia Rehmer, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Nationally, opposition to outpatient commitment and forced medication has come from both Republicans and Democrats.
Many other states have adopted laws that allow patients to be forcibly medicated outside of an institutional setting under court order, sometimes called "outpatient commitment." But there is no evidence that it prevents violence. Several states with outpatient commitment laws have had mass shootings in recent years, including Virginia, Colorado and Arizona. Studies by the Rand Corporation, and others, have found that outpatient commitment has not proven effective at preventing violence.
There is no evidence and no reason to believe that passage of the bill would have had any effect on the Newtown shooter or his family. There is no evidence that Adam Lanza was diagnosed with a mental illness, that his family sought to have him committed or tried to force him to take medication. There is no reason to believe that had his family could not have had him committed under the existing law, had the effort been made.
Defeat of the bill did not make it impossible to involuntarily commit adults with mental illness to institutionalized care in Connecticut. Such procedures already exist. The bill would only have made it possible to commit a person with the testimony of one doctor instead of two, as now required. No evidence was presented that the safeguard of requiring a second doctor's opinion is onerous or has ever prevented an involuntary commitment.
-- Jan. 8, 2013