Counties Applaud Expansion of Assisted Outpatient Treatment Programs

On February 28, 2023, Associate Policy Director Sarah Sample testified before the Senate Finance Committee in support of SB 480 – Mental Health Law – Assisted Outpatient Treatment Programs.

The House Health and Government Operations Committee will consider the bill’s cross-file, HB 823, on March 14.

SB 480 authorizes counties to establish an Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program (AOT) for mental health treatment in their local jurisdictions. At a time when demand for mental health treatment has increased exponentially and overwhelmed existing resources, the option to establish AOT programs can equip counties with additional flexibility in handling patient intake. Indeed, AOTs have also been shown to reduce rates of hospitalization, arrest, and incarceration in states where it has been implemented.

From the MACo Testimony:

The pressure for mental health services increased exponentially during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, which effectively overwhelmed existing resources that are available in communities for vulnerable populations. Many private and public programs that provide inpatient and outpatient treatment simply did not have the capacity to care for the number of people in crisis. Staffing shortages have exacerbated this problem. These realities have resulted in the diversion of mental health patients from the appropriate programs into emergency rooms and county correctional facilities, which compromises safety and medical resources for all residents… this legislation could serve to alleviate the mounting pressure that has been hampering emergency rooms and correctional facilities across the state. The benefits are innumerable to staffers and residents alike as more resources will be effectively employed for their expected use rather than overwhelmed by the needs of individuals who require an entirely different type of intervention and care

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