Jonathan Stanley JD '93

Jon Stanley JD '93 was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1988 following a manic episode that had him running from imaginary secret agents through New York City streets for three days. It ended when police brought him to a psychiatric hospital.

"God bless those cops," Stanley said. "They had the legal justification to arrest me but not-silly as it sounds - to bring me for a mental health evaluation under the laws at that time. They still did. They did what was right and obviously needed."

Stanley received medication to control his disorder. Since earning his law degree, he has made it his life's work to help others. He is a founding board member of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit in Arlington, Va., dedicated to reforming commitment and involuntary treatment laws to eliminate barriers to the timely treatment of people with severe mental illness.

"Our take is that we need to change laws so we can get help for that group of people we've just left adrift in psychosis in our communities with no way to help them."

Stanley served as TAC's assistant and eventually interim director from 1998 to 2008. He has been instrumental in improving treatment laws in 18 states.

"We are 100 percent for full and voluntary choices for treatment, but when someone is so sick that he is not taking his treatment because he thinks his doctor is a CIA agent handing him poison-that's not a decision that should be respected," Stanley said.

E. Fuller Torrey, a renowned psychiatrist and schizophrenia researcher, began the Treatment Advocacy Center in 1998.

"Jon was instrumental in improving the laws in many states and especially in New York, where Kendra's Law probably would not have passed without his efforts," Torrey said.

That 1999 law has allowed courts to order psychiatric care as a condition for living in the community for thousands of people with serious mental illnesses in obvious need of care and whose previous noncompliance with treatment has resulted in either violent acts, incarceration or multiple hospitalizations, Stanley noted.

"I can confidently say I had a hand in getting treatment for 20,000 or more people with severe mental illness who were not being treated," Stanley said.

This story was adapted from the Spring 2013 issue of the Quinnipiac Magazine.

Spring 2013

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