Even worse than the stigmas around mental health is the willful neglect of state and local governments in doing anything about treating and handling its most vulnerable population. Ever since the loss of Charity Hospital – and long before Katrina even – New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have both been in a dark age with helping individuals and families prevent, treat, and/or recover from mental illnesses. The recent expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has helped some, but not nearly enough. Groups like Families Helping Families and The Advocacy Center continue to pursue specific plans to match specific scenarios and people, a fight that has been going on since and before the passing of the American’s with Disabilities Act.

The New Orleans DDD (Downtown Development District) sent out a release, outlining the implementation and history of a new Civil District Court initiative known as AOT (Assistive Outpatient Treatment). An extension of Nicola’s Law – passed in 2008 to make individuals comply with court-ordered treatment plans – this new program, started exclusively by DDD and the city of New Orleans to show the state what can be done given resources, will study a group of participants (patients who’ve had treatment and are being released) to understand how best to proceed.

The law and program give “a broad” group of people the power to petition the courts to demand treatment plans for individuals who are seen as needing additional assistance. In its infancy, there is certainly much room for abuse of power, given the general feelings against those suffering and needing help. Individuals with disabilities, if of age, are adults and, therefore, should be important decision makers in what treatment they want, if any. Of course, who can determine such things when they’re lost in illness? Who has the authority? We hope to learn more soon about current state and city laws, implementation, stigma, and advocacy actions with regards to mental health.

If you have any comments or stories you’d like to share what the DDD is attempting and doing, please do drop us a line.

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