New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) on Tuesday announced the city’s new plan to address mentally ill residents by hospitalizing them against their will, even if they do not pose an immediate safety risk to others.
Under Adams’ directive, New York City police officers, firefighters, and health department officials are allowed to involuntarily commit mentally ill individuals if they “cannot support their basic human needs to an extent that causes them harm.”
Previously, city officials were authorized to hospitalize mentally ill individuals who were dangerously violent and deemed an immediate threat to others. They would usually be discharged from the hospital after a few days when their conditions slightly improved.
Now, Adams’ directive authorizes “the removal of a person who appears to be mentally ill and displays an inability to meet basic living needs, even when no recent dangerous act has been observed.”
“If the circumstances support an objectively reasonable basis to conclude that the person appears to have a mental illness and cannot support their basic human needs to an extent that causes them harm, they may be removed for an evaluation,” the directive stated.
However, Adams and his staffers failed to define “basic needs” or provide any criteria for how city workers would determine if those needs are being met.
In announcing his plan, Adams claimed that the idea that city officials were only empowered to involuntarily hospitalize an individual if they are violent was a “myth” that “must be put to rest.”
Adams said during a press conference:
The common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent. This myth must be put to rest. 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.
We see them every day and our city workers are familiar with their stories: The man standing all day on the street 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.
Those suffering from severe mental illness have more than a right to exist or survive. They have a right to healthcare, housing, and treatment. A right to dignity and respect. A right to safety and security.
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) November 29, 2022
Adams announced that Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) would provide New York City with 50 new psychiatric beds to help assist with the mayor’s plan.
“We are going to find a bed for everyone,” Adams said. Adams reportedly said city officials would instruct hospitals to keep the patients in beds until there is a plan to connect them to ongoing care.
However, activist groups and local Democrat officials spoke out against Adams’ plan to involuntarily commit the mentally ill.
“Who’s determining that they’re dangerous to anybody but themselves?” Democrat City Council Member Diana Ayala told Politico. “I don’t know that picking folks up and dragging them to the ER is even legal.”
Further, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) accused Adams of “playing fast and loose with the legal rights of New Yorkers.”
“The federal and state constitutions impose strict limits on the government’s ability to detain people experiencing mental illness – limits that the Mayor’s proposed expansion is likely to violate,” NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “Forcing people into treatment is a failed strategy for connecting people to long-term treatment and care.”
Adams also announced the city would release a new telephone hotline next year where police officers can receive “real time access to consider potential responses to individuals with mental health needs,” from health department and hospital workers.