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New York Mayor Eric Adams pushes to forcibly hospitalize a mental patient

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New York City will remove more mentally ill people from its streets and subway system, Mayor Eric Adams (D) announced on Tuesday, ordering authorities to intern people against their will if they are seen as evil for themselves, not just for others.

The directive clarifies a “grey area where policy, law and accountability have been unclear,” Adams said in a public address. Under the directive, outreach workers and police are encouraged to intervene when a person is considered to be so mentally ill that it prevents them from “meeting their basic human needs, which makes them dangerous to themselves “, did he declare.

Steps will be taken to engage people involuntarily, “even if they do not pose an imminent threat to the public”, he said, adding that “a common misunderstanding persists” that such action could not be taken. if the person is violent, suicidal or poses an imminent risk to the public.

“We need to change this culture and clarify our expectations,” he said. “No more walking or looking away.”

But the announcement – touted by Adams as a “focus on action, care and compassion” – came under immediate criticism over whether it was practical, appropriate or legally permitted.

Adams is “playing fast and loose with the legal rights of New Yorkers and failing to devote the resources needed to address the mental health crises that affect our communities,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a press release. .

“Federal and state constitutions place strict limits on the government’s ability to detain people with mental illness — limits that the mayor’s proposed expansion is likely to violate,” she said. “Forcing people into treatment is a failed strategy to connect people to long-term treatment and care.”

“What happens when someone refuses to be hospitalized? It seems to boil down to letting the NYPD forcibly hospitalize people,” tweeted housing worksa New York City nonprofit that fights AIDS and homelessness.

In response to a request for comment on the criticisms and legal issues, Kate Smart, the mayor’s spokeswoman, referred The Washington Post to the mayor’s earlier remarks.

Brendan McGuire, the mayor’s chief attorney, said the state’s Mental Hygiene Act has provisions that allow people to be involuntarily committed to an institution if they are found to meet certain criteria. after diagnosis by a doctor. “They don’t need to consent” to the treatment or the diagnosis, he said.

Elyn Saks, professor of law, psychology and psychiatry at the University of Southern California, said the directive was likely legal, noting that the 1975 Supreme Court ruling in O’Connor v. Donaldson found it illegal to confine someone against their will if they could safely live alone.

Under the New York guideline, if homelessness is used as a standard of danger posed to the person, “it would fly constitutionally,” Saks said in a phone interview, though she added that its legality did not necessarily mean “that it is desirable or a good thing.”

Saks, who wrote about her own experience of involuntary commitment, said the focus should be on finding ways to get people to seek or agree to help on their own, which she says , was “a more durable solution”.

David Cohen, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose research focuses on controlled substances and mental health, said that although the New York City guideline “refers to self-harm or severe disability” , which have been established as legally authorized under recent American precedence, it “disregards imminence or immediacy”.

“If you have been living on the streets for weeks, it is also unlikely that you are also at imminent risk of serious injury. Therefore, the undertakings in this case could be reviewed and challenged legally, ”he said in “But almost every state’s statutes of recognizance are elastic enough to allow for involuntary deductions that could legally stretch for weeks.”

Tiffany Cabán, a member of the New York City Council, said in response to Adams’ announcement that “consent is key and the health infrastructure is necessary”, writing on Twitter that the new directive was “deeply problematic”.

“Often the wrong responder and wrong response is what creates a deadly situation, not the mental health crisis itself,” she wrote.

The guideline notes that “case law does not provide detailed guidance regarding referrals for mental health assessments based on short on-the-job interactions.” It says situations involving “untreated serious physical injury, delusional unconsciousness or misunderstanding of the environment, or delusional unconsciousness or misunderstanding of physical condition or health” could be “reasonable” signs. that a person was putting themselves at risk because of a mental illness.

Adams implied in his remarks that police officers who doubted they had the authority to hire someone against their will in a certain situation could call a hotline or video chat with a professional “to get an expert opinion on what options may be available.”

Asked by a reporter at a press conference after the announcement whether the city had enough resources at its disposal to handle an influx of patients, Adams said there were 50 empty beds and Governor Kathy Hochul ( D) allocated another 50. He had said in his earlier remarks that there were “hundreds” of New York residents “in urgent need of treatment.”

“We have empty beds, so as long as we have empty beds, we have to fill those empty beds, and we always have to ask for more,” he said at the press conference.



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