On August 9, 1999, the Governor signed Kendra's Law (Chapter 408 of the Laws of 1999), creating a statutory framework for court-ordered Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) to ensure that individuals with mental illness and a history of hospitalizations or violence participate in community-based services appropriate to their needs. Kendra's Law was named in memory of Kendra Webdale, a young woman who died in January, 1999 after being pushed in front of a New York City subway train by a man with a history of mental illness and hospitalizations. The law became effective in November of 1999 and was renewed in June of 2005.
Since that time, the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) has been evaluating the impact of Kendra's Law on individuals receiving court-ordered services. In January, 2003 OMH issued an Interim Report required by Kendra's Law, which reviewed the implementation and status of AOT and presented findings from OMH's evaluation of the program. This was followed by a Final Report on the status of AOT in New York State which was also statutorily required by the original Kendra's Law and updates the Interim Report. This AOT web-based report is required by the renewed Kendra's Law.
Kendra's Law established new mechanisms for identifying individuals who, in view of their treatment history and circumstances, are likely to have difficulty living safely in the community without close monitoring and mandatory participation in treatment. In addition, the Office of Mental Health promulgated regulations to support local mental health systems giving these individuals priority access to case management and other services necessary to ensure their safety and successful community living. The statute created a petition process, found in Mental Hygiene Law section 9.60, designed to identify at-risk individuals using specific eligibility criteria, assess whether court-ordered outpatient treatment is required, and if so, develop and implement mandatory treatment plans consisting of case management and other necessary services.
Kendra's Law requires that each county in New York State and New York City establish a local AOT program to implement the statute's requirements, and charges OMH with the responsibility for monitoring and overseeing the implementation of AOT statewide. Implementation of Kendra's Law and AOT has been a joint responsibility and collaboration between OMH and local mental health authorities.