Implementing Assisted Outpatient Treatment: Essential Elements, Building Blocks and Tips for Maximizing Results

This resource was developed by SMI Adviser content partners and approved by the SMI Adviser clinical expert team for inclusion in the knowledge base.

Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) is the practice of providing community-based mental health treatment under civil court commitment, as a means of: (1) motivating an adult with mental illness who struggles with voluntary treatment adherence to engage fully with their treatment plan; and (2) focusing the attention of treatment providers on the need to work diligently to keep the person engaged in effective treatment. Studies demonstrate that when adequately funded and carefully implemented, AOT reduces system treatment costs and improves participants’ quality of life. But while state laws authorizing AOT are widespread (covering all but three states at the time of this publication), the actual practice of AOT by mental health systems is not.

This paper aims to explain what AOT is and how it can benefit communities, provide a view into the variability of AOT programs, and identify practices considered promising for successful systematic implementation. The contributors to this paper include AOT-involved consumers, practitioners, judges, law enforcement officers, and researchers from across the nation. The AOT programs they represent include those operating in rural, suburban and urban environments; both longstanding and newly implemented programs; and programs employing varying levels of judicial engagement.

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