NYC's Plan: Up Involuntary Hospitalizations for Mental Illness

New directive relies on expanded enforcement of existing law
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2022 5:22 PM CST
NYC's Plan: Up Involuntary Hospitalizations for Mental Illness
Homeless Outreach personnel reach out to a person sleeping on a bench in the Manhattan subway system, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, in New York. Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday, Nov. 29, that authorities would more aggressively intervene to help people in need of treatment.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Citing a "moral obligation" to address a mental health crisis that is visible on his city's streets, NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday that first responders have been directed to hospitalize more people who are mentally ill involuntarily. The New York Times reports the announcement represents a change in emphasis rather than law, as police generally only hold people involuntarily if they exhibit violent behaviors, a practice that Adams says is based on a misconception. "This myth must be put to rest," the mayor explained at an event announcing the policy. "Going forward, we will make every effort to assist those who are suffering from mental illness and whose illness is endangering them by preventing them from meeting their basic human needs."

The phrase "basic human needs" is the legal key to a policy that relies on increased enforcement of Kendra’s Law, which enables courts to mandate treatment for those who pose a threat to others or themselves not only by violence but also failure to provide food, shelter, or other basic needs for themselves. While expressing compassion for those in crisis, Adams acknowledged that it won’t be easy to implement the new directive. In addition to enhanced training for police and firefighters, the mayor said more "clinical co-response teams" will be deployed in subways to reach out to people with mental health issues, per Fox 5. The city is also developing a "tele-consult line" to give police officers direct access to clinicians.

The announcement comes on the heels of a report issued by the city’s public advocate criticizing the current and past administrations for not doing enough to stem the crisis. It also comes amid a rise in violent crime, including a spate of high-profile attacks, such as a January incident in which a schizophrenic man shoved a woman to her death from a subway platform. Per Patch, the announcement is linked to the mayor’s 11-point legislative agenda, which pushes for more support from Gov. Kathy Hochul. She's already agreed to fund 50 new psychiatric beds in city hospitals, per the Times. Adams says hospitals will be instructed not to discharge these patients until they have stabilized and a plan on how their basic human needs will be provided for is in place. (More mental health stories.)

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