Involuntary Outpatient Commitment and the Elusive Pursuit of Violence Prevention.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

OBJECTIVE: Involuntary outpatient commitment (OPC)-also referred to as 'assisted outpatient treatment' or 'community treatment orders'-are civil court orders whereby persons with serious mental illness and repeated hospitalisations are ordered to adhere to community-based treatment. Increasingly, in the United States, OPC is promoted to policy makers as a means to prevent violence committed by persons with mental illness. This article reviews the background and context for promotion of OPC for violence prevention and the empirical evidence for the use of OPC for this goal. METHOD: Relevant publications were identified for review in PubMed, Ovid Medline, PsycINFO, personal communications, and relevant Internet searches of advocacy and policy-related publications. RESULTS: Most research on OPC has focussed on outcomes such as community functioning and hospital recidivism and not on interpersonal violence. As a result, research on violence towards others has been limited but suggests that low-level acts of interpersonal violence such as minor, noninjurious altercations without weapon use and arrests can be reduced by OPC, but there is no evidence that OPC can reduce major acts of violence resulting in injury or weapon use. The impact of OPC on major violence, including mass shootings, is difficult to assess because of their low base rates. CONCLUSIONS: Effective implementation of OPC, when combined with intensive community services and applied for an adequate duration to take effect, can improve treatment adherence and related outcomes, but its promise as an effective means to reduce serious acts of violence is unknown.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Swartz, MS; Bhattacharya, S; Robertson, AG; Swanson, JW

Published Date

  • February 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 62 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 102 - 108

PubMed ID

  • 27777274

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC5298526

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1497-0015

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0706743716675857


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States