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The Nevada Legislature yesterday joined 44 other states and passed a bill to bring crucial mental health reform to individuals with serious mental illness who struggle with treatment compliance.

nevada_legislatureOnce signed by the governor or after 10 days, the bill will make Nevada the 45th state to adopt an assisted outpatient treatment (“AOT”) law and leave only five U.S. states without the option of less restrictive court-ordered treatment in the community for individuals with the most severe mental illness, many of whom are unable to recognize they are ill.

Championed by Assemblyman Lynn Stewart (R-Clark County), AB 287 would apply to individuals with severe mental illness who have a history of treatment non-compliance and are unable to make informed treatment decisions.

"If Gov. Sandoval signs the bill, Nevada will have a new tool to reduce hospitalization rates, homelessness, arrests and incarceration, while saving money and lives," said Kristina Ragosta, director of advocacy. "This law is a significant improvement. Not only will it protect rights of individual suffering from mental illness, it will provide safety and quality of life for the individuals, their families and the community."

Once signed, the new law will authorize a court to require a person who has severe mental illness and meets strict legal criteria to participate in treatment as a condition for remaining in the community.

“Nevada often ranks last in the nation in measures of mental illness treatment such as providing public hospital beds and has a high number of severely mentally ill people in jails and prisons,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director. “With this measure, the legislature has significantly improved treatment options for the state’s most vulnerable residents.”

In addition to Assemblyman Stewart, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Nevada Psychiatric Association were instrumental in promoting passage of the bill. If the bill is signed, it would be effective July 1, 2013. 

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