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Op-Ed: Action, Care and Compassion: My Administration’s Approach to Addressing Severe Mental Illness

Mayor Eric Adams announces a new pathway forward to address the ongoing crisis of individuals experiencing severe mental illnesses left untreated and unsheltered in New York City’s streets and subways. City Hall. Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

Dec. 6, 2022 Op-Ed By NYC Mayor Eric Adams 

Our city is facing a crisis. New Yorkers with severe and untreated mental illness are living out in the open, on our streets and in our subways. They are in danger and need help, yet often, the nature of their illnesses prevents them from seeking the support they require.

My Administration is determined to do more to assist people with mental illness, especially those with untreated psychotic disorders who pose a risk of harm to themselves, even if they are not an imminent threat to the public. Moving forward, we will take several key steps.

The most important is for our outreach workers, hospital staff, and police officers to be aware that New York law already allows us to intervene when untreated severe mental illness prevents a person from meeting their basic human needs, causing them to be a danger to themselves.

We will continue to do all we can to persuade those in need of help to accept services voluntarily. But we have also given our mobile crisis teams—comprised of clinicians—specific guidance for involuntarily transporting a person experiencing a mental health crisis to a hospital for evaluation.

This will occur when a person refuses voluntary assistance, and it appears that they are suffering from severe mental illness and are a danger to themselves due to an inability to meet their basic needs. We believe this is the first time that a mayoral administration has given this direction on the “basic needs” standard in official guidance.

Our mobile crisis teams and police officers will also receive enhanced training on how to assist those in mental health crisis. This will include an in-depth discussion of what “inability to meet basic needs” means, and an array of options to consider before resorting to involuntary removal.

We will launch a hotline staffed by clinicians from our H+H hospitals to provide guidance to police officers who encounter individuals in psychiatric crisis as well. The hotline will allow an officer to describe what they are seeing to a clinical professional, or even use video calling to get an expert opinion on what options may be available.

In addition to these steps, we will ask our partners in Albany to make important fixes to the New York State Mental Hygiene Law.

These fixes include a common-sense expansion of the information that a hospital doctor considers in deciding whether to discharge a psychiatric patient. All too often, a person enters a hospital in crisis and is discharged prematurely simply because their current behavior is no longer as alarming as it was when they were admitted.

Our agenda also calls for allowing a broader range of licensed mental health professionals to staff our mobile crisis teams, and for a broader range of trained professionals to perform psychiatric evaluations in hospitals. This will help us get more outreach teams on the ground and enable hospital psychiatrists to spend more time providing medical care directly to patients.

These are just a few of the needs our legislation addresses. We will be doing more to help people with severe mental illness access “assisted outpatient treatment,” and coordinated care.

All these efforts are based on my core conviction that people with untreated severe mental illness deserve care, community, and treatment in the least restrictive setting possible. By helping our brothers and sisters with severe mental illness, my administration will also be protecting the rights of every New Yorker to live, work, thrive and be safe.

To learn more, please see: PsychiatricCrisisCare_v1.indd (nyc.gov)

email the author: [email protected]

3 Comments

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Sara Ross

When is SOMEBODY, ANYBODY going to find out what happened to the millions of dollars DeButthead gave to his wife to start her program to help the mentally ill, NOT TO MENTION, the millions of dollars in salary she was getting? Is there any proof of what they’ve done with the money or what they’ve done to help people?? These are our tax dollars, they didn’t come out of his pocket.

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stan chaz

Simon & Garfunkel updated for 2023: And here’s to you, Street People. Adams loves you more than you will know. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Eric blesses you, please, Mr .Mrs.Homeless. And HHS holds a place for those who stray. Hey, hey, hey Hey, hey, hey. We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files We’d like to help you learn to help yourself. Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes. Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home. And here’s to you, Mr. Mrs. Homeless. Adams loves you more than you will know. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Eric blesses you, please, Street People. HHS holds a place for those who stray. Hey, hey, hey Hey, hey, hey. Hide them in a hiding place where no one ever goes. Put them in your holding pens and prisons. It’s a little secret, just Mr. Eric Adam’s affair. Most of all, you’ve got to hide them from the tourists. Coo, coo, ca-choo, Mr. Mrs. Homeless. Eric loves you more than you will ever know. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Eric blesses you, please, Street People. And HHS holds a place for those who stray. Hey, hey, hey Hey, hey, hey. Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon. Going to the candidates debate. Laugh about it, shout about it, When you’ve got to choose. Every way you look at this, you lose. Where have you gone, Mr. Mrs. Homeless? Our City turns its eyes away from you. Woo, woo, woo. What’s that you say, Mr. Adams? The homeless have left and gone away Hey, hey, hey. Hey, hey, hey.

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stan chaz

If Mayor BitCoin has his way he’ll be involuntarily transporting away those who society (and Eric) has most failed. Are these undesirables “out of their minds”? Or is it much more a case of “out of sight, out of mind”? Iran has its morality police. We’ll have our mentality police. Gosh, I better be careful when I drag my disheveled self thru the streets of New York . I’ll need a sign around my neck saying: “Hey I may look lost, but I’m only a tourist, and Mayor Adams loves me – so bug off!”. Eric Adams & his my-way-or-the-highway cop mentality got where he is today by stoking the flames of exaggerated fear, and using scare & scape-goating tactics for his own ends. Now he’s trying to quash the flames he fueled, and trying not to get burned, before that drumbeat consumes his own administration (with the gleeful help of self-serving right-wing Republicans, of course). Adam’s latest PR campaign is sweeping unslighly & offensive people off the streets and medicating them into incarcerated zombie-hood drugged submission (for their own good of course, of course); I guess 34 people dying in “pre-trial”custody at Rikers Island this year is not enough for Adams. No, he wants even more “preventative” measures against whomever he deems as undesirable —measures which countries like Russia and China carry to their perfected & “logical” conclusion. This, as opposed to actually helping the least of these live in this dog eat dog society by providing them the resources & opportunities to lift themselves back up to whatever level of life they voluntarily may choose to pursue –or not. Today, as we demonize & criminalize poverty, homelessness, and acting outside the norms, it’s all too shamefuly clear that “the law, in all its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.”, Laws without morality, without justice, and without dignity & respect for all are nothing but the law of the jungle, and that is no law at all.

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