NEW YORK (PIX11) — More mentally ill people will be involuntarily hospitalized in New York City under a new plan announced by Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday.
The directive will apply to people with severe mental illnesses, even if they don’t pose an immediate risk to others, Adams said. Police officers, FDNY members and social workers will get new guidance on how to get people medical care, even if they say they don’t want it.
“The very nature of their illnesses keeps them from realizing they need intervention and support. Without that intervention, they remain lost and isolated from society, tormented by delusions and disordered thinking,” Adams said. “They cycle in and out of hospitals and jails. But New Yorkers rightly expect our city to help them. And help them we will.”
Officers will have access to a new hotline staffed by clinicians at hospitals. Those clinicians will give expert guidance to officers who see people in psychiatric crisis. Once mentally ill people are at hospitals, more will need to be done before they can be discharged.
“All too often, a person enters a hospital in crisis and gets discharged prematurely because their current behavior is no longer as alarming as it was when they were admitted,” Adams said. “The law should require hospital evaluators to consider not just how the person is acting at the moment of evaluation but also their treatment history, recent behavior in the community, and whether they are ready to adhere to outpatient treatment.”
A slew of organizations representing public defenders in New York City seemed to welcome the Adams policy. They said they want to make sure people with mental health issues get treatment when needed rather than being jailed.
“We are heartened to hear that Mayor Adams acknowledges that community-based treatment and least-restrictive services must guide the path to rehabilitation and recovery,” the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, New York County Defender Services, and the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem said in a joint statement. “He is correct that homeless New Yorkers with mental health conditions have the right to health care, housing, treatment, respect, dignity and the hope that their futures will be safe and illnesses treated.”
The mayor’s announcement was condemned as wrong-headed by some civil rights groups and advocates for the homeless.
“The Mayor is playing fast and loose with the legal rights of New Yorkers and is not dedicating the resources necessary to address the mental health crises that affect our communities,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“Forcing people into treatment is a failed strategy for connecting people to long-term treatment and care,” she said.
The Coalition for the Homeless also denounced the mayor’s plan, saying the city should focus on expanding access to voluntary psychiatric treatment.
“Mayor Adams continues to get it wrong when it comes to his reliance on ineffective surveillance, policing, and involuntary transport and treatment of people with mental illness,” said the coalition’s executive director, Jacquelyn Simone.