June 30, 2006
The Alaska Supreme Court determined that the state has a compelling interest, under its parens patriae powers, to treat incompetent individuals with psychotropic medications if that treatment is found to be in the individual’s best interest, while also taking into account available less intrusive alternatives. Because of the broad guarantee of privacy found in the Alaska State Constitution, this determination must be made by an independent judicial review.
Alaska’s Supreme Court rectified an oversight in their state’s mental health treatment statutes; ensuring that a person’s interests are taken into account when the state exercises its duty to protect an individual from themselves. This commonsense determination is found in many other states and in the Treatment Advocacy Center’s Model Law for Assisted Treatment.
Although this ruling was accompanied by clearly outdated notions about psychotropic medication, TAC is encouraged that treating professionals and courts will have the opportunity to make treatment determinations on an individualized basis. Judges will have the opportunity to explore the most recent evidence about treatment, evidence that amply demonstrates the important role medication plays in effective mental health care.