[guest post by Dana]
New York City Mayor Adams announced a new directive yesterday, and it’s a controversial one:
The move could allow non-medical professionals, such as police officers, to request such removals from streets and subways based on their judgment of a person’s inability to meet basic needs for health and safety, the mayor’s office said. This can happen whether or not the person poses an overt danger to themselves or others.
After removal and transportation to a city-run hospital, doctors can then decide if the person needs to be admitted.
Adams also proposed an 11-point series of reforms in state law to govern the care of mentally ill New Yorkers.
“For too long there has been a gray area where policy, law and accountability have not been clear,” Adams said during an address at City Hall. “And this has allowed people in need to slip through the cracks.”
Adams offered this as an illustration of the problem he is trying to address through his directive:
“The man standing on the street all day across from the building he was evicted from 25 years ago waiting to be let in. The shadow boxer on the street corner in midtown mumbling to himself as he jabs at an invisible adversary,” Adams said Tuesday. “The unresponsive man unable to get off the train at the end of the line without assistance from our mobile crisis team. These New Yorkers, and hundreds of others like them, are in urgent need of treatment, yet often refuse it when offered.”
“The very nature of their illnesses keeps them from realizing they need intervention and support,” the mayor added. “Without that intervention, they remain lost and isolated from society, tormented by delusions and disordered thinking. They cycle in and out of hospitals and jails. But New Yorkers rightly expect our city to help them.”
Clearly, there are potentials for abuse:
Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said ideally that this judgment would come from specialized teams composed of mental health professionals and first responders such as the police.
“We want the specialized teams to come to that site, and then do that work and wait for the EMS to come so that we can transport them to the hospital,” Williams-Isom said.
But the policy, as written, allows the police alone to call on EMS to make a removal, even if a mental health clinician isn’t present on the scene. The NYPD is not permitted to transport an individual.
Note: [T]he mayor’s directive acknowledges that “case law does not provide extensive guidance regarding removals for mental health evaluations based on short interactions in the field.”
Civil liberty advocates concerned about the new directive say that the police are not the answer.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has indicated that she will support the Mayor’s proposal.