Legal aspects of clinical care for severely mentally ill, homeless persons.
P. S. Appelbaum,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
20(4): 455-73, 1992.
The problem of widespread homelessness among mentally ill persons is often attributed to changes
in mental health law. In consequence, suggestions for addressing homelessness frequently involve
legal interventions, including loosening of commitment standards. A review of the limited data on
the relation of legal standards to homelessness suggests that the problem is not primarily a result of
statutory changes or court decisions, but stems from broader social problems, including the
diminution of public psychiatric services. Simple legal remedies are, therefore, unlikely to be found.
Nonetheless, there may be ways in which legal initiatives can be useful in mitigating homelessness,
ranging from implementation of outpatient commitment to modification of rules concerning
confidentiality, to efforts to establish entitlements to psychiatric and social services.