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Judge Frank Barger launches assisted outpatient treatment program for mental illness

MADISON COUNTY – Madison County Probate Court JudgeFrank Barger is making good on his promise to focus on the mental health. The Probate Court will implement a new program next month to provide court-ordered outpatient treatment for those who qualify.

The new program, which will start Feb. 3, will focus on individuals with untreated, severe mental illness.

The Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), is a court-ordered program focusing on outpatient care for people with severe mental illness who are capable of surviving safely in the community with treatment, but have demonstrated difficulty adhering to voluntary treatment. This program is made possible through a partnership with WellStone Behavioral Health and funding generated by passport application fees taken in by the court.

“Families and other support systems are far too often left unable to help loved ones who have difficulty adhering to treatment until they pose a threat to themselves or someone else,” Judge Barger said. “With this new program I am delivering on my promise to overhaul the mental health work overseen by the Probate Court – implementing another treatment option and improving the landscape of this critical issue within our community.”

Numerous studies have found that AOT programs reduce episodes of system recidivism, violence, incarceration, homelessness, and repeat hospitalization among its target population. A person’s participation in AOT will be determined after a petition for involuntary commitment is processed, condition and needs are assessed, a physician confirms that outpatient treatment is appropriate, a specific plan is developed for treatment, and a hearing is held before the court. The individual will report to the court on a monthly basis to confirm they are compliant with their treatment plan and review any concerns that might exist. Barger will embrace his judicial role in the AOT process as a motivator and continue with the compassion and focus on care he has brought to the involuntary commitment process.

“AOT empowers patients, families, and other related support systems to work together and thrive in the community,” said Jeremy Blair, CEO of WellStone Behavioral Health. “We are pleased to work hand-in-hand with Judge Barger and his team to provide this needed program.”

Barger is a known innovator working diligently since taking office to tackle work the court oversees not only in mental health, but also in adoption, protection of our elders and children, documents processing, and the management of elections.

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