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Psychol Public Policy Law. 2003 Mar-Jun;9(1-2):145-58.

Does involuntary outpatient commitment lead to more intensive treatment?

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke Univeristy Medical Center, Box 3173, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Studies of involuntary outpatient commitment (OPC) among persons with severe mental illness have concluded that OPC is only effective in improving treatment outcomes when it is sustained for 6 months or longer and is combined with frequent outpatient services. This article explores factors that influence the delivery of outpatient services to subjects in a randomized trial of OPC and finds 2 general patterns. Outpatient visits were more frequent among all subjects with apparent clinical need, regardless of study assignment, and among subjects whose OPC was sustained beyond an initial court order. These results suggest that, in practice, sustained OPC represents a consensual agreement between clinicians and the court to more intensively address the complex needs of persons with severe and persistent mental illness.

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