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Outpatient commitment would harm patients in need

AS A practicing psychiatrist, member of the White Commission on Mental Health and a person who recovered from schizophrenia, I believe that a state policy shift to allow outpatient commitment, as advocated by the Globe, is wrong ("Response to Newtown killings demands gun laws — and more," Editorial, Dec. 20). It is based on the false premise that persons with mental illness are more prone to violence than the general population.

Furthermore, trust is the cornerstone of the therapeutic alliance, and outpatient commitment destroys trust. Involuntary treatment is traumatic and frightens people away from treatment. Outpatient commitment is also a gross violation of human rights.


The best means to assist in recovery is not more laws, but increased access to voluntary, community-based, peer-delivered services such as peer-run respites and recovery learning communities.

Another approach is to improve the capacity of all community members to help each other. The National Empowerment Center has helped develop such a public health approach to emotional distress, called emotional CPR.


Executive director

National Empowerment Center