Is the proposal to hospitalize the mentally ill proposed by the Mayor of New York City legal?
Advocacy groups have criticized New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ directive for city officials to hospitalize mentally ill people against their will.
New York City Mayor Eric Adam’s has announced he is ordering city officials including police, hospital workers, and first responders, to hospitalize mentally ill people who are on the streets and subways even if it is against their will and they are not a threat to other people.
“We have a moral obligation to support our fellow New Yorkers and stop the decades-long practice of turning a blind eye towards those suffering from severe mental illness, especially those who pose a risk of harm to themselves,” according to the mayor.
Mayor Eric Adams: They are ‘in and out of hospitals and jails’
“The very nature of their illnesses keeps them from realizing they need intervention and support. Without the intervention, they remain lost and isolated from society, tormented by delusions and disordered thinking. They cycle in and out of hospitals and jails,” Adams added.
The plan will allow police, outreach workers, and other first responders to legally bring people exhibiting symptoms of mental illness to area hospitals for evaluation.
State law imposes a limit on the government’s power to forcibly commit a person into a mental health institution unless they are considered a risk to themselves or others.
However, the mayor invoked Kendra’s law, which allows courts to order the treatment of mental patients. At the same time, the city does admit that the legalities of the new directive are not clear-cut, saying that “case law does not provide extensive guidance regarding removals for mental health evaluations based on short interactions on the field.”
Civil rights groups hit Adams’ plan
Adams’ directive has come under fire from some mental health professionals as well as advocacy groups.
New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman says the mayor should not toy with New Yorkers’ legal rights by forcing people into treatment, and instead focus on providing resources that the city needs to solve mental health issues.
The Coalition for the Homeless also criticized the involuntary treatment of people with mental illness, and said the government should focus its efforts on giving people more access to voluntary psychiatric care.
Harvey Rosenthal, chief executive of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services told The New York Times that coercion is traumatic, and does not address the issue of people’s access to quality care.