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June 21, 2005

Mandatory Care for Mentally Ill

Maine's House and Senate have approved a bill that would force mentally ill outpatients to follow the treatment plans ordered by courts or face hospitalization against their will. If approved Maine would be the 43rd state that mandates treatments for outpatients who are mentally ill.

"Opponents of the bill, which would take effect July 1, 2006, see it as an effort to medicate sick people into compliance. They say that recovery from mental illness is possible only when patients are participating voluntarily in their treatment. And opponents, many of whom have mental illnesses themselves, view mandatory care as a violation of basic liberties" (Wack, 2005).

Both sides have valid points; one's basic liberties would be slightly encroached upon if this bill were to be passed. On the other hand, those who are not able to realize that they have a mental illness may benefit from this bill, as well as would their families.

But there are still a few things that stand in the way of this bill being passed. "The Appropriations Committee, which is expected to meet later this month, must allocate $520,000 to fund the bill, said its sponsor, state Sen. John Nutting, D-Leeds. 'That's the only hurdle left,' Nutting said Saturday. "There's not money enough to fund all the bills. So we still have to work very hard to make sure that it's funded" (Wack, 2005).

This bill would only apply to those 21 and older who suffer from a severe and chronic mental illness. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia would be two of the most commonly targeted by this bill. If they refused to follow the treatment plan issued by the courts they would be forced into a 6-month treatment plan that would be carried out by health care professionals.


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