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Protecting Health and Safety with Needed-Treatment: the Effectiveness of Outpatient Commitment


Outpatient civil commitment (OCC) requires the provision of needed-treatment, as a less restrictive alternative (LRA) to psychiatric-hospitalization in order to protect against imminent-threats to health and safety associated with severe mental illness (SMI). OCC-reviews aggregating all studies report inconsistent outcomes and interpret such as intervention failure. This review, considering those studies whose outcome criteria are consistent with the provisions of OCC-law, seeks to determine OCC-effectiveness in meeting its legislated objectives. This review incorporated studies from previous systematic-reviews, used their search methodology, and added investigations through August 2020. Selected OCC-studies evaluated samples of all eligible patients in a jurisdiction. Their outcome-measures were threats to health or safety or the receipt of needed-treatment exclusive of post-OCC-assignment- hospitalization, the latter being the OCC-default for providing needed-treatment in the absence of an LRA and dependent on bed-availability. A study's evidence-quality was evaluated with the Berkeley Evidence Ranking and the New Castle Ottawa systems. Thirty-nine OCC-outcome-studies in six-outcome-areas directly addressed OCC-statute objectives: 21 considered imminent threats to health and safety, 10 compliance with providing needed-treatment, and 8 conformity to the LRA-standard. With the top evidence-rank equal to one, the studies M = 2.55. OCC-assignment was associated with reducing mortality-risk, increasing access to acute-medical-care, and reducing risks of violence and victimization. It enabled reaching these objectives as a LRA to hospitalization and facilitated the use of community-services by individuals refusing such assistance when outside of OCC-supervision. OCC's appears to enable recovery by reducing potentially life-altering health and safety risks associated with SMI.

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