Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), sometimes called “Kendra’s Law,” is a hot-button topic amongst peers. Many (I’m willing to state “most”) peers familiar with AOT are very much against AOT because it is construed as “forced treatment.” In many ways, I can agree with this. In a more important way, I feel it is an important and responsible community service that, if implemented correctly with the correct peer advisement, can help peers rather than hurt peers. Let me explain.

AOT is intended for individuals like James Boyd and John Hyde – I use these (controversial) two peers because they are local to Albuquerque and are high-profile enough that most local folks will know immediately who I’m talking about – and by this I mean those individuals in our community who pose a significant violent threat to others when their symptoms are not managed properly. The idea behind AOT is to have individuals such as these two accountable to the court, requiring (mandating) them to take medications and to receive services to help ensure their mental health diagnosis symptoms do not allow them to be a threat to our community.

And this is done, hopefully, to keep things like the incidents (soft, euphemized word) these two were involved from happening. Court-mandated preemptive treatment I suppose is another euphemistic way of looking at AOT.

That does sound like forced treatment, although there is another type of forced treatment called criminal incarceration. To me, something like AOT gives peers an opportunity the general public (who commit violent crimes) does not have. Peers have a chance at medical and psychiatric treatment instead of criminal incarceration for committing a violent crime.

Confused? Don’t be concerned. It’s not a simple idea I’m attempting to explain. I’m trying my best.

Speaking directly to criticism, it’s been touted that I’m a peer who supports AOT. Not so. I believe in the CONCEPT of AOT, and I believe in the NECESSITY of AOT services, but I DO NOT in any way support any past or present New Mexico legislation that has to do with AOT, including the recently passed SB .

This is what I do believe:

Assisted Outpatient Treatment is a responsible community service to give critical access to treatment to the most at danger peers in our community.

Please recognize that I frame this in terms of PEER NEEDS and not PREEMPTIVE COMMUNITY CARE. I do so because the aspect of PEER NEEDS in the New Mexico debate over AOT hasn’t been even a consideration in the drafting of AOT legislation in New Mexico. Strong statement? Good. That’s exactly what it needs to be.

Peers were not consulted on AOT legislation in New Mexico except in the most token of ways. Peers did not assist in the drafting of AOT legislation in New Mexico (including me, who had direct, in person communication with Shawn Mathis on several occasions at behavioral health meetings, and each time I offered FREE peer focus group services to help advise on AOT… and never received a response or follow up). These most at danger peers, in my belief, had no input into New Mexico AOT legislation, whether directly or indirectly, such as through peer focus groups that are developed by peers and facilitated by peers.

Until this year, New Mexico was one of five states (I think) that did not have some form of AOT law on the books. So, there are plenty of test cases out there from which the New Mexico AOT law drew inspiration. I am not happy in the least with the final version of this law, but I do take some comfort in that the necessary court mandated services don’t yet exist, so it’s important for peers to be heard on what are the best services that will fulfill the peer purpose of AOT, and that’s both jail diversion AND quality of life for those most at danger peers.

Let’s recap:

I don’t support the New Mexico AOT law. I do believe in the need and potential benefit of AOT services for those most at danger peers.

I hope I made myself a bit clearer on my feelings on AOT as a peer service versus the AOT law in New Mexico. It’s an important distinction, and perhaps some peers will find a better nickname for me than “Benedict.” I very much like “Captain Crabmeister Ozone.” Mull it over.