A Game of Chicken, Part 2

New York Post - - POST OPINION -

In yet another game of chicken, the Leg­is­la­ture could fin­ish up this week with­out re­new­ing Ken­dra’s Law — and so need­lessly put the pub­lic at risk.

Let­ting the law ex­pire would al­low as many as 3,000 se­ri­ously men­tally ill New York­ers in man­dated treat­ment to go off the meds that keep them func­tion­ing nor­mally.

Passed in 1999 af­ter a schiz­o­phrenic off his meds pushed Ken­dra Web­dale to her death in front of an N train, the law lets courts com­pel out­pa­tient treat­ment for those whose men­tal ill­ness poses a pub­lic threat.

Some law­mak­ers feared of­fi­cials might abuse that power, so the law sun­sets pe­ri­od­i­cally. But Ken­dra’s Law has worked well for nearly two decades, help­ing peo­ple whose ill­ness would oth­er­wise lead to vi­o­lence, in­car­cer­a­tion and/or home­less­ness.

The Se­nate has passed a bill that re­news the law (with mi­nor im­prove­ments) with no sun­set clause. Both the cur­rent and past chair­men of the Assem­bly men­tal-health com­mit­tee, Felix Or­tiz (D-Brooklyn) and Peter Rivera (D-Bronx), agree that Ken­dra’s Law should be­come per­ma­nent.

But Speaker Carl Heastie wants only a straight five-year ex­ten­sion. He says that “com­pels us to reeval­u­ate the pro­gram ev­ery few years to look for op­por­tu­ni­ties for im­prove­ment.”

Hmm: His bill doesn’t actually make any im­prove­ments. A cynic might think he’s just pre­serv­ing a pos­si­ble fu­ture bar­gain­ing chip.

But the fact of the mat­ter is that the Assem­bly ap­proach doesn’t actually harm any­one, in the way that re­new­ing may­oral con­trol with­out lift­ing the char­ter cap does.

Ken­dra’s Law is a life-saver. It would be mal­prac­tice to let it lapse.

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