The New York Times
March 23, 1989
Koch Backs Pilot Plan to Aid the Mentally Ill By HOWARD W. FRENCH
LEAD: Mayor Edward I. Koch will urge the State Legislature today to approve a pilot program to ease overcrowding in psychiatric emergency rooms in New York City by committing some patients to a regimen of outpatient care. The program is also intended to improve supervision of potentially dangerous mentally ill patients.
Mayor Edward I. Koch will urge the State Legislature today to approve a pilot program to ease overcrowding in psychiatric emergency rooms in New York City by committing some patients to a regimen of outpatient care. The program is also intended to improve supervision of potentially dangerous mentally ill patients.
Under the program, hospitals would be allowed to ask the State Supreme Court to order patients with a history of psychiatric troubles to undergo prolonged outpatient care. Such care might include counseling as often as once a week.
Those who did not comply with a court order – by failing to take medication, for example, or by repeatedly neglecting appointments – could be committed indefinitely to a mental hospital. The pilot program would run for two years in one city-operated hospital that has yet to be chosen.
Legislation creating the program will be introduced in Albany next week, said an aide to one of the sponsors, Assemblyman John Brian Murtaugh, Democrat of Manhattan. The other sponsors are Assemblywoman Elizabeth A. Connelly, Democrat of Staten Island, and Senator Frank Padavan, Republican of Queens. Call for Quick Approval.
Officials said yesterday that Mayor Koch would hold a news conference today to call on the Legislature to approve the bill quickly.
The aide to Mr. Murtaugh, Jed Wolkenbreit, said the program was intended to ”allow mental patients to be treated as outpatients in their own communities.”
An originator of the program, Dr. Luis R. Marcos, vice president of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation for Mental Hygiene Services, said the plan would cover some of the approximately 800 ”heavy users” of psychiatric hospitals in the city. These are psychiatric patients who have been hospitalized three times or treated in emergency rooms six times in the last year, he said.
”This plan offers a choice,” Dr. Marcos said, ”a way out of our present dilemma of having to decide between institutional care and total neglect.”
Because patients in the pilot program will be required to return for psychiatric consultations as often as once a week, Dr. Marcos said, ”we will be able to see when a patient is taking illegal drugs or decompensating before it becomes too late.” Decompensating refers to when a patient’s condition deteriorates because of a failure to take medication or because the medication has lost its effect.
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