In July 1983 Arizona's commitment statutes were revised to allow the courts to order involuntary outpatient treatment for the mentally ill. Using retrospective data from medical and court records, patients at a county hospital in Tucson for whom involuntary commitment was sought before outpatient commitment was available were compared with similar groups of patients after outpatient commitment was instituted. Patients ordered to receive outpatient treatment did not differ significantly in diagnosis or reason for commitment from patients committed to inpatient treatment before the change in the law. However, shorter inpatient stays were reported after outpatient commitment became available. In addition, the percentage of patients who voluntarily maintained an active relationship with community treatment centers six months after commitment increased significantly after outpatient commitment was instituted.