New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a new program that will be implemented in the city that consists of admitting mentally ill residents to hospitals against their will. People will be admitted, even if they do not represent an "immediate risk" to the safety of society. This will be done without requiring a prior medical report:
A person who appears to be mentally ill and shows an inability to meet the basic necessities of life is authorized for removal, even if no recent dangerous act has been observed (...) may be removed for evaluation including when no recent dangerous act has been observed (...) May be removed for evaluation.
This new policy establishes "an accelerated step-by-step process for the involuntary transport of people in crisis." Those authorized to do so are police officers, firefighters and New York City Health Department officials, who began training last Tuesday.
Mental Health Involuntary Removals/ NYC by Voz Media on Scribd
Previously, city officials were authorized to hospitalize the mentally ill who were violent and considered an immediate threat to others. More often than not, they were discharged after a few days, when their condition improved.
"Basic needs" are not defined
The mayor's announcement does not define the criteria or characteristics - beyond those established in the previous program - that an individual must present in order to be detained by an officer. It also does not establish how to determine if a person can meet their own "basic needs." There is no data provided on how city workers would determine whether or not that individual suffers from a mental illness.
While announcing his new plan, Adams stated that one "myth" that "must be put to rest" is the idea that city officials are only empowered to hospitalize violent people against their will. He noted that they will do "everything possible to assist those who suffer from mental illness and whose illness puts them at risk by preventing them from meeting their basic human needs."
The common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent, suicidal, or presents a risk of imminent harm. We must put an end to this myth (...) We see them every day and our municipal workers are familiar with their stories.
"Playing games with the legal rights of New Yorkers"
The mayor also announced that state Gov. Kathy Hochul will support the plan by providing 50 new psychiatric beds. "We're going to find a bed for everyone," Adams said. Various activist groups and local officials protested against Adams' plan. Democratic Councilwoman Diana Ayala told Político:
Who determines that they are dangerous to anyone but themselves? (...) I don't know if picking people up and dragging them to the ER is even legal.
The federal and state constitutions impose strict limits on the government's ability to detain people with mental illness, limits that the mayor's proposed expansion is likely to violate (...) Forcing people into treatment is a failed strategy for connecting people to treatment and long-term care.