The mayor of New York, the Democrat Eric Adams, announced on Tuesday the 29th a controversial and potentially illegal measure, according to critics: to commit people with mental illness to treatment, even without consent.
At a press conference, he said that the objective is to face the mental health “crisis” in the city, and that police and first responders have already been instructed to collect people with severe symptoms of mental illness from the subways and streets and take them, even involuntarily, to to hospitals in the region.
According to him, the measure is a response to the “ongoing crisis of individuals with serious mental illnesses left untreated and homeless on the streets and subways of the city”. New York city🇧🇷 “These New Yorkers and hundreds of others like them urgently need treatment, but often refuse it when offered,” Adams said at the news conference.
The mayor said police officers, first responders and other personnel “will receive enhanced training on how to assist and compassionately care for those in mental health crisis.” “The very nature of their illnesses prevents them from realizing that they need intervention and support. Without this intervention, they remain lost and isolated from society, plagued by delusions and disordered thinking. They are in and out of hospitals and prisons.”
Adams also stated that there is a “myth” that “involuntary assistance” applies only in cases of imminent harm, and said that the city will not “abandon efforts” for admissions, even if it is against the person’s will. He invoked the full power of the Kendra Act, legislation that allows court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment. The law is named after Kendra Webdale, who died after being pushed onto subway tracks by a man with a history of mental illness.
Criticism for the suppression of freedoms and lack of effectiveness
The measure was criticized by some mental health professionals, who said the city should focus on long-term solutions and avoid treating people who refuse.
The executive director of the New York Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Harvey Rosenthal, said the plan “relies heavily on coercion and the involuntary use of hospitals” and that “adding coercion to a broken system” is inappropriate and may not bring the desired effects.
New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman also condemned the plan. “The mayor is playing with the legal rights of New Yorkers,” she summed up. “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 added in a note. For her, forcing people to treat themselves is a “failed strategy”.