Assisted Outpatient Treatment Upholds Civil Liberties, Doesn’t Deny Them

Assisted Outpatient Treatment Upholds Civil Liberties, Doesn’t Deny Them

Assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) is finally coming into its own. After so many people fighting for the rights of the seriously mentally ill for a decade, this lifesaving treatment option is finally available in the vast majority of states. But many people feel that assisted outpatient treatment denies civil liberties. I would argue, however, assisted outpatient treatment actually upholds civil liberties, not to mention upholds societal ethics.

What Is Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT)?

Assisted outpatient treatment is court-ordered and court-supervised treatment of severe mental illness in a tiny percentage of people who live in the community. In short, if you have a person who repeatedly is arrested or hospitalized for a severe mental illness, refuses to take medication and is a danger to themselves or others without it, the county mental health department can file a petition to the court for AOT.

Assisted outpatient treatment cannot force a person to take medication, but, rather, enforces a treatment plan. But, as most of us know, a treatment plan normally consists of medication along with other steps. However, the taking of this medication, according to Psychiatric Times, “. . . relies on ‘the compulsion generally felt by law-abiding citizens to obey court directives,’ not force.”

The lack of reliance on force is just one of the reasons that AOT does not violate civil liberties.

What Are Civil Liberties Related to AOT?

Assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) is still controversial, but it shouldn't be. AOT uploads the rights of our most seriously mentally ill brethren.Some people would argue that anyone, anywhere, anytime has the right to refuse treatment.

Well, I suppose that’s true.

Anyone, anywhere, anytime has the right to be arrested for their mentally ill behavior. Anyone, anywhere, anytime, has the right to be forcibly hospitalized for their mentally ill behavior. Anyone, anywhere, anytime has the right to live on the streets and eat out of garbage cans because of their mentally ill behavior.

The question is, do we want to live in a society where being imprisoned, being hospitalized and eating out of garbage cans is preferable to a treatment plan created by professionals? Because I certainly do not. Moreover, I would argue it is a civil liberty not to live like that. We should all have the right to be well – not to remain sick. We should all have the right to a life outside of incarcerations and hospitalizations and with food and shelter. And AOT allows for this. It allows for people to live in the community in a safe and stable way. If I were ever so sick that I couldn’t understand my own illness, was living on the streets, was getting arrested and was getting hospitalized, I pray to god that someone would give me AOT.

What Is Some People’s Problem with AOT?

But no matter how much sense this makes, no matter how the data shows that AOT prevents homelessness, violence, drug abuse, psychiatrist admissions and arrests, people still scream “HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!”

This is so ridiculous.

While I can understand the need for oversight, while I can understand the need for judiciousness in application, and while I can even understand some reticence, what I can’t understand is denial of this very important program that will help a small, but critically ill, number of people. If anything, more people need this program, not less.

I believe we live in a society where it’s our job to protect each other and particularly protect those who can’t protect themselves. And that is what AOT does. Assisted outpatient treatment preserves the civil liberty for safety, sanity and a life. Denying these rights is something that opponents do.

Reference: Assisted Outpatient Treatment Enters the Mainstream by By E. Fuller Torrey, MD and John D. Snook, JD

Banner image care of the Department of Defense.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.



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