Assessing the New York City involuntary outpatient commitment pilot program

Psychiatr Serv. 2001 Mar;52(3):330-6. doi: 10.1176/


Objective: The study evaluated the effectiveness of a three-year outpatient commitment pilot program established in 1994 at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.

Methods: A total of 142 participants were randomly assigned; 78 received court-ordered treatment, which included enhanced services, and 64 received the enhanced-service package only. Between 57 and 68 percent of the subjects completed interviews at one, five, and 11 months after hospital discharge. Outcome measures included rehospitalization, arrest, quality of life, symptomatology, treatment noncompliance, and perceived level of coercion.

Results: On all major outcome measures, no statistically significant differences were found between the two groups. No subject was arrested for a violent crime. Eighteen percent of the court-ordered group and 16 percent of the control group were arrested at least once. The percentage rehospitalized during follow-up was about the same for both groups-51 percent and 42 percent, respectively. The groups did not differ significantly in the total number of days hospitalized during the follow-up period. Participants' perceptions of their quality of life and level of coercion were about the same. From the community service providers' perspective, patients in the two groups were similarly adherent to their required treatments.

Conclusions: All results must be qualified by the fact that no pick-up order procedures for noncompliant subjects in the court-ordered group were implemented during the study, which compromised the differences between the conditions for the two groups, and that persons with a history of violence were excluded from the program.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coercion
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Community Mental Health Services* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Pilot Projects
  • Program Evaluation
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Refusal / statistics & numerical data