MONTPELIER (AP) - The Vermont Senate has given preliminary approval to legislation designed to streamline the process for ordering involuntary treatment and medication of psychiatric patients.

The hotly debated bill, which advanced on a vote of 26-4, is an attempt to speed up a judicial review process that backers say leaves patients without needed treatment for too long, creating risks to themselves, fellow patients and caregivers.

Opponents - including some people who say they have been subjected to involuntary treatment in the past - say forcing someone to take psychiatric drugs against their will should always raise big concerns about liberty and autonomy.

The issue arises as Vermont grapples with rebuilding its mental health system after flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 forced the closing of the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury.


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