Kendra's Law, effective since November 1999, is a New York State law concerning involuntary outpatient commitment. It grants judges the authority to issue orders that require people who meet certain criteria to regularly undergo psychiatric treatment. Failure to comply could result in commitment for up to 72 hours. Kendra's Law does not require that patients are forced to take medication.
It was originally proposed by members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Alliance on Mental Illness of New York State, and many local NAMI chapters throughout the state. They were concerned that laws were preventing individuals with serious mental illness from receiving care until after they became "dangerous to self or others". They felt the law should work to prevent violence, not require it. They viewed outpatient commitment as a less expensive, less restrictive and more humane alternative to inpatient commitment.
The members of NAMI, working with NYS Assemblywoman Elizabeth Connelly, NYC Department of Mental Health Commissioner, Dr. Luis Marcos, and Dr. Howard Telson were successful in getting a pilot outpatient commitment program started at Bellevue Hospital.
In 1999, there was a series of incidents involving individuals with untreated mental illness becoming violent. In two similar assaults in the New York City subway, a man diagnosed with schizophrenia pushed a person into the path of an oncoming train. Andrew Goldstein, age 29, while off medicines, pushed Kendra Webdale to her death in front of an oncoming N train at the 23rd Street station. The law is named after her. Her family played a significant role in getting it passed. Subsequently Julio Perez, age 43, pushed Edgar Rivera in front of an uptown 6 train at 51st Street. Rivera lost his legs and became a strong supporter of the law. Both Goldstein and Perez had been dismissed by psychiatric facilities with little or no medication. Kendra's Law, introduced by Governor George E. Pataki, was created as a response to these incidents. In 2005, the law was extended for 5 years.
As a result of these incidents, involuntary outpatient commitment moved from being a program to help the mentally ill to a program that could increase public safety. Public safety advocates joined advocates for the mentally ill in trying to take the successful Bellevue Pilot Program statewide. What was formerly known as involuntary outpatient commitment was re-christened as assisted outpatient treatment, in an attempt to communicate the positive intent of the law .
Kendra's Law basically allows courts to order certain seriously mentally ill individuals to accept treatment as a condition for living in the community. The law is aimed at a small group who have a history of rehospitalization that is associated with going off medications.
In order to be admitted to Kendra's Law, individuals must meet the following criteria established in Section 9.60 of NYS Mental Health Law :
Criteria for assisted outpatient treatment. A patient may be ordered to obtain assisted outpatient treatment if the court finds that:
- the patient is eighteen years of age or older; and
- the patient is suffering from a mental illness; and
- the patient is unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, based on a clinical determination; and
- the patient has a history of lack of compliance with treatment for mental illness that has:
- at least twice within the last thirty-six months been a significant factor in necessitating hospitalization in a hospital, or receipt of services in a forensic or other mental health unit of a correctional facility or a local correctional facility, not including any period during which the person was hospitalized or incarcerated immediately preceding the filing of the petition or;
- resulted in one or more acts of serious violent behavior toward self or others or threats of, or attempts at, serious physical harm to self or others within the last forty-eight months, not including any period in which the person was hospitalized or incarcerated immediately preceding the filing of the petition; and
- the patient is, as a result of his or her mental illness, unlikely to voluntarily participate in the recommended treatment pursuant to the treatment plan; and
- in view of the patient's treatment history and current behavior, the patient is in need of assisted outpatient treatment in order to prevent a relapse or deterioration which would be likely to result in serious harm to the patient or others as defined in section 9.01 of this article; and
- it is likely that the patient will benefit from assisted outpatient treatment; and
- if the patient has executed a health care proxy as defined in article 29-C of the public health law, that any directions included in such proxy shall be taken into account by the court in determining the written treatment plan.
According to the Treatment Advocacy Center (treatmentadvocacycenter.org), all the following organizations support the law:
- Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC)
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association
- American Psychiatric Association
- National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
- National Sheriffs Association
- National Crime Prevention Council
- National Alliance on Mental Illness New York State (NAMI NYS)
- NYS Association of Chiefs of Police (NYSCOP)
- AMI-Friends of NYS Psychiatric Institute, NYC
- NAMI/Familya of Rockland County
- NAMI Schenectady
- NAMI Chautauqua County
- NAMI of Buffalo and Erie County
- NAMI of NYC/Staten Island
- NAMI Orange County
- NAMI Champlain Valley
- Harlem Alliance for the Mentally Ill
- NAMI of Montgomery, Fulton, Hamilton Counties
- NAMI/Albany Relatives
- NAMI North Country
- Albany County Forensic Task Force
- Westchester County Chiefs of Police Association
- Orange County Police Chiefs Association
- Town of New Windsor, Police Department
- Town of Chester, NY Police Department
- Town of Mechanicville, Police Department
- West Seneca, NY Police Department
- Broome County District Attorney,
Selected individual supporters 
- Pat Webdale – Mother of Kendra Webdale
- Dr. E. Fuller Torrey – Author, Surviving Schizophrenia
- Dr. Xavier Amador – Author, I am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help!
- Rael Jean Isaac – Co-author Madness in the Streets
- Pete Early – Author, Crazy: A Father's Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness
- Dr. Robert Yolken – Director of Developmental Neurovirology Johns Hopkins Univ.
- Dr. Richard Lamb – Dept. of Psychiatry, USC
- Edgar Rivera – Lost legs in subway pushing
Founding supporters 
- New York Times
- New York Post
- Daily News
- Albany Times Union
- Buffalo News
- Troy News
- Office of the Attorney General
- NYS Public Employees Federation
- Greater NY Hospital Association
- Citizens Crime Commission
- Victim Services Agency
- Visiting Nurses Service
- Justice for All
- St. Francis Residence
- E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, lobbied heavily in support of Kendra's Law.
Kendra's Law is opposed for different reasons by many groups, most notably the Anti-Psychiatry movement and the New York Civil Liberties Union. Opponents say that the law has harmed the mental health system, because it can scare patients away from seeking treatment. The implementation of the law is also criticized as being racially and socioeconomically biased.
The 2005 study found:
Specifically, the Office of Mental Health (OMH) study found that for those in the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program:
- 74 percent fewer recipients experienced homelessness;
- 77 percent fewer recipients experienced psychiatric hospitalization;
- 83 percent fewer recipients experienced arrest; and
- 87 percent fewer recipients experienced incarceration.
Comparing the experience of AOT recipients over the first six months of AOT to the same period immediately prior to AOT, the OMH study found:
- 55 percent fewer recipients engaged in suicide attempts or physical harm to self;
- 49 percent fewer recipients abused alcohol;
- 48 percent fewer recipients abused drugs;
- 47 percent fewer recipients physically harmed others;
- 46 percent fewer recipients damaged or destroyed property; and
- 43 percent fewer recipients threatened physical harm to others.
As a component of the OMH study, researchers with the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University conducted face-to-face interviews with 76 AOT recipients to assess their opinions about the program and its impact on their quality of life. The interviews showed that after receiving treatment, AOT recipients overwhelmingly endorsed the program:
- 75 percent reported that AOT helped them gain control over their lives;
- 81 percent said that AOT helped them to get and stay well; and
- 90 percent said AOT made them more likely to keep appointments and take medication.
Additionally, 87 percent said they were confident in their case manager's ability to help them—and 88 percent said that they and their case manager agreed on what is important for them to work on. AOT had a positive effect on the therapeutic alliance.
In 2009, an independent study by Duke University into alleged racism found "no evidence that the AOT Program is disproportionately selecting African Americans for court orders, nor is there evidence of a disproportionate effect on other minority populations. Our interviews with key stakeholders across the state corroborate these findings."
Current status 
Jan. 15, 2013 - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a new package of gun regulations, including a new measure that extends Kendra's Law through 2017.
- "Horrifying subway homicide causes parents to relive death of daughter hurled to her death in January 1999"
- Subway Victim Says He Harbors No Anger
- McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web, "Kendra's Law", http://www.mcmanweb.com/article-66.htm
- New York Civil Liberties Union, "State Lawmakers Extend Kendra's Law For 5 Years, Despite Concerns That It Targets Men Of Color" http://www.nyclu.org/aot_program_pr_062305.html
- NYCLU Testimony On Extending Kendra's Law: Finally, there are some who argue that had Andrew Goldstein been assigned early on -- before he had assaulted at least 13 women -- to the criminal justice system rather than the mental health system in New York, that he would have been incarcerated and unable to attack Kendra Webdale. http://www.nyclu.org/content/testimony-extending-kendras-law
- New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc., "Implementation of Kendra's Law is Severely Biased" (April 7, 2005)  (PDF)
- Carpinello, Sharon (March 2005), "Kendra's Law Final Report on the Status of Assisted Outpatient Treatment", Office of Mental Health NY, retrieved 2010-10-27
- Swartz, Marvin (06-30-09), "New York State Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program Evaluation", Office of Mental Health NY, retrieved 2010-10-27
- No Involuntary Outpatient Torture - (Commitment) - WE THE PEOPLE
- MindFreedom International
- The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights
- Nationwide Organizing Call to Action: STOP forced "mental health treatment" - WE THE PEOPLE
- Center for Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry
- National Association of Rights, Protection & Advocacy
- Kendra's Law
- Summary of the law
- NYCLU stance on the Law
- Myths about Kendra's Law
- National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse
- Kendra's Law, Not Ours