Our strategy for conducting a dialogue among advocates on Assisted Outpatient Treatment

4 Comments | Posted

The Advocates Dialogue on Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) is being conducted to achieve two primary objectives: 

Note: For background context on the creation of the Advocates Dialogue on Assisted Outpatient Treatment, please click here

Overall purpose of the dialogue 
The goal for this meeting is not to pit "for" and "against" head to head. Quite the opposite. The purpose of the discussion is to provide an opportunity for the sharing of personal experience around the challenge of addressing this issue and the emotion it brings – precisely why this discussion will not focus on research, data or other props to support a position one way or the other. Everyone in the discussion is quite astute and could argue a position either for or against with plenty of supported data to back them up. 

What happens the night before the dialogue?
The dialogue experience will begin with dinner on Sunday, August 24th. The only rule for this dinner is that there will be no discussion of the dialogue to take place the following day. Our hope is that by breaking bread together we will be able to get a richer sense of the gifts each of us bring to the conversation to take place on the following day. 

How will the dialogue be structured? 

Why hold an invitation only event? 
With the well-documented rancor and ill will regarding this topic expressed publically over the past year, we knew we needed to create an environment of safety for constructive, honest dialogue. As well, a room full of supporters and detractors tends to encourage the delivery of platform speeches instead of honest, personal reflection, which is what we are looking for in this dialogue.

We are purposely inviting only members of Congress and their staff to observe. There will be no press or additional advocacy group representation during the dialogue. Once the dialogue is complete, doors will be opened, and anyone is welcome to talk with anyone. Observers can choose to either engage or not once the official dialogue is over.

Moving forward
Members of Congress rely on well-informed information from the citizenry. Our observation is that over the past year, the numerous expert panels, research findings, etc. have only polarized positions. We have not seen evidence of true collaboration on the tough issues. That has to change, and we in the advocacy community have to lead that change. This dialogue is only the first step. There will be much to follow.  


Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network


  1. Peggy's avatar
    | Permalink
    18 year olds and up are still developing and need our guidance. Thank you CMHN for focusing on this issue that is near to my heart as the mom of a 19 year old with severe mental illness.
  2. Scott Bryant-Comstock's avatar
    Scott Bryant-Comstock
    | Permalink
    DJ - Actually, emerging adults (focus on youth up to age 26) and their families are a very active part of the Network, and we love 'em for it!
  3. Gail Lanphear's avatar
    Gail Lanphear
    | Permalink
    Your planned discussion with advocates on both sides of the issues and observing legislative personnel is fantastic. Open, honest discussion and truly listening are crucial. I applaud your efforts, Scott. I'm hoping this event will move this issue in a positive direction.
  4. DJ Jaffe's avatar
    DJ Jaffe
    | Permalink
    A requirement of AOT is that the individual who needs help be over 18. Am surprised to see CMHN going outside it's expertise. I also suppose I disagree with the proposition that because people disagree, somehow that means dialogue hasn't taken place or that the 'two sides' should be brought together. It's OK to disagree and it is OK for one side to 'win'. Those who insist on helping the most seriously ill could 'bring the sides together' by giving up on helping. But that would be wrong.
    1. Leave a Comment