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Court Strikes Down ABQ Mental Illness Law…Again

August 8, 2008

Albuquerque, NM – The New Mexico Court of Appeals has struck down a City of Albuquerque ordinance that empowered the city to forcibly medicate people with mental illness. City officials say they needed the law for public safety reasons, but the appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that all people have a right to make decisions about their mental health care.

Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, says state laws already are in place to cover the issue, and the city version was too vague and went too far. He calls the latest court ruling a victory for people with mental illness.

"People with mental illness in the City of Albuquerque no longer have to fear they might be forcibly medicated, or forcibly held in custody."

Simonson says the city law could potentially have incarcerated people who wanted to take their medications, but couldn't afford to fill the prescriptions or pay for treatment.

"It's really the breakdown in our mental health system that's responsible for many of the problems in which violence and mental illness intersect."

Advocates for people with mental illnesses are pleased the court squabbling could be over, and the focus can now turn to finding ways mental illness sufferers can access and afford treatment and medication. The city can still appeal to the State Supreme Court.



Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NM