On Tuesday, November 29th, Mayor Eric Adams announced that people suffering from mental health issues would be taken off the street or subway and into custody with or without their consent. Mayor Adams directed first responders, including police and emergency medical workers, to place people suffering from or experiencing mental illness into custody. “I know some people may look at what we’re doing saying that we’re trying to do something to take away the right of people. No, we’re not. The right is that people should be able to live in dignity,” Adams said.
Adams said the change in policy was valid as it was in written guidance of the state Office of Mental Health.
However, the manner in which Mayor Adams has chosen to deal with issues regarding mental health has come under heavy criticism. Critics claim Adams is making a short-term solution to resolve a long-term problem.
“The city really needs to address this more from a health and housing lens, rather than focusing on involuntary removals and policing,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless. Simone suggested that the Adams Administration provide more accessible housing and voluntary health care. “They might be taken to hospitals, but the question remains whether they would actually be able to access care once they are taken to the hospitals. And where will they be discharged to once they’re done with the hospitalization or evaluation?” Simone said.
Ramel Rich, a homeless man, told CBS News how he felt about the mayor’s plan. “I’m not mentally ill. I just have big issues,” he said. “I feel [the mayor’s plan] is bad because a lot of hospitals and agencies aren’t for us, they’re against us. People who have mental issues, you can’t stop that. Hospitals aren’t the answers.”
Eva Wong, Director of the mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health, agreed with the changes. “These new protocols and trainings will ensure that agencies and systems responsible for connecting our community members with severe mental illnesses to treatments are working in unison to get them the support they need and deserve,” Wong said.