July 6, 2005

Outpatient Psychiatric Treatment

Outpatient psychiatric care is usually something that is up to the patient, but in certain cases it is not. Most states have a law that allows for a judge to make the decision for the patient in extreme cases.

As Steele (2005) stated, "Somewhere in the pile of proposed programs waiting to get funded in the new state budget is one for which Maine state legislators should just write the check. It is the outpatient commitment program (OCP) that allows a judge working with mental health professionals to require some patients with severe mental illness to comply with a community-based treatment program or face involuntary treatment in a psychiatric hospital. Maine was one of only eight states in the country without an OCP law until the Maine Legislature passed one overwhelmingly this year.

However, in order for the law to go into effect Maine legislators must appropriate $520,000 to staff a pilot OCP in the Augusta area, provide housing for the mentally ill patients in the program, and monitor program effectiveness. The OCP program would be focused on patients who have been hospitalized frequently because their mental illness was poorly controlled, often in part because the patient was not taking his or her medications."

There are two sides to this argument. Those who are against the OCP program, and laws like it, say that forcing someone into treatment and then forcing them to take medication is taking away a basic freedom that people should have. What you do with yourself and your body should be to your own discretion. They also believe that this is just a way for the government to get around paying for more expensive outpatient care that may be better for the mentally ill individual.

Those in favor of the OCP program cite its success in other parts of the country. There is also the fact that many patients with mental disorders are unaware of their illness and therefore deny treatment because they do not believe they have a problem. Sometimes patients refuse treatment because the illness itself causes them to be suspicious of others, it can make them believe that those around them are not looking out for their best interests.

When one has a severe mental disorder such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, its important for their sake that they receive treatment. Obviously it is also important that every individual receives the rights that he or she has a human being. When those rights should be altered for the sake of the individual, is something that everyone has a hard time discerning.

The source of this article was the Bangor Daily News Viewpoints section. The original article was written by Dr. Erik Steele on July 5, 2005. You can access the full article at: http://tinyurl.com/cpu8y

Bangor Daily News can be accessed at: http://www.bangornews.com/

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