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Post date: February 18 1999

Outpatient Commitment Bill Named For Subway Victim

Attorney General Spitzer today introduced legislation designed to safeguard the public against mentally ill persons who fail to take their prescribed medication and pose a safety threat to themselves and others.

Spitzer dedicated the legislation to Fredonia native Kendra Webdale, who was pushed in front of a subway train last month by a diagnosed schizophrenic who was not taking his medication.

"Kendra Webdale's name and memory can live on by helping to save lives in the future,"said Spitzer. "It's my hope and belief that ‘Kendra's Law' will help protect the public and mentally ill from tragic incidents."

Spitzer was joined at the news conference by members of Kendra's family, including her parents Ralph and Patricia Webdale.

"We are very supportive of what the Attorney General is trying to do. Our hope is that Kendra's Law will help to prevent future tragedies and save lives," said Patricia Webdale. "We will be working with the Attorney General to try and ensure that the bill passes the Legislature and is signed by the Governor."

Under the Spitzer proposal, close family members and care givers could - with the support of a psychiatrist - obtain a court order to ensure that a mentally ill person take his or her prescribed medication.

If the mentally ill person violates the court order by going off his or her medication, he or she could then be held for a 72-hour emergency evaluation and be required to take the prescribed medication.

Under current state law, someone must be perceived to be "an imminent danger" to themselves or others before they can be held for evaluation.

Most other states, including neighboring states, already have outpatient commitment statutes. A recent study of the legislation by Duke University has shown that outpatient commitment, coupled with intensive services, significantly reduce hospitalizations and incidents of violence.

Spitzer's proposal has drawn support from advocates for the mentally ill, as well as the Greater New York Hospital Association.