May 2009Health Affairs 28(3):816-26
In this paper we explore racial disparities in outpatient civil commitment, using data from Kendra’s Law in New York State. Overall, African Americans are more likely than whites to be involuntarily committed for outpatient psychiatric care in New York. However, candidates for outpatient commitment are largely drawn from a population in which blacks are overrepresented: psychiatric patients with multiple involuntary hospitalizations in public facilities. Whether this overrepresentation under court-ordered outpatient treatment is unfair depends on one’s view: is it access to treatment and a less restrictive alternative to hospitalization, or a coercive deprivation of personal liberty?