New York Mayor Eric Adams directed first responders on Tuesday to enforce a state law that allows them to potentially involuntarily jail people experiencing a mental health crisis as part of efforts to address concerns about homelessness and crime.
Adams said it’s a myth that first responders can only involuntarily make people who exhibit “obvious behavior” suicidal, violent or a danger to others. Instead, he said the law allows first responders to involuntarily let in people who cannot meet their own “basic human needs” — a lower standard.
NYPD officers and first responders will receive additional training to help them conduct such evaluations, and a team of mental health technicians will be available via hotline or video chat to help them determine whether a person needs to be taken to a hospital for further evaluation.
The city also plans to create dedicated intervention teams to work alongside NYPD officers.
Adams says first responders were not consistent Laws are enforced because they are unsure of their scope and only reserve them for what appears to be the most serious cases.
“Many officials feel uncomfortable using this power when they doubt whether a person in crisis meets the criteria,” Adams said Tuesday. “The hotline will allow an officer to describe what they are seeing to a clinical professional, and even Video calls can be used to obtain expert opinion on available options.”
New York State enacted a law in 2021 that allows first responders to involuntarily assist people with mental illness who need immediate care.
The directive is the latest strategy aimed at controlling the mental health crisis, which Adams has identified as one of the root causes of violence and crime in the city.
In January, Michelle Go was killed by a man believed to be disturbed when she was pushed in front of an oncoming subway train in Times Square, according to New York City and NYPD officials .
In September, police arrested a mother who drowned her three children in the water near the famous Coney Island boardwalk and later told investigators she dreamed they were drowning in the water, law enforcement officials told CNN. water.
Mental health was one of the topics discussed in October, when Adams held a two-day summit with city and state stakeholders as a way to control crime.
The directive led to mixed responses from officials who acknowledged the challenge of treating people with mental illness appropriately and humanely.
“This is a long-standing and deeply complex issue,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with our many partners to ensure everyone has access to the services they need. This deserves the full support and attention of our collective efforts.”
FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement that the department is “proud to be working with Mayor Adams to address this critical public safety issue. Our mission is simple: help all New Yorkers in need to help them when possible and to provide critical mental health care.”
City officials made clear that the order allows for due process, and that if a person is assessed and deemed unfit to care for themselves, they can take legal avenues to challenge the designation. Civil rights advocates say that’s not enough.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called the move “an attempt to disperse the homeless and remove individuals from sight” in a statement.
“The mayor is toying with the legal rights of New Yorkers and failing to dedicate the necessary resources to address the mental health crisis affecting our communities,” Lieberman said. imposed strict restrictions – which the mayor’s proposed expansion could violate. Forcing people into treatment is a failed strategy to connect people to long-term treatment and care.”
New York City public advocate Jumaane Williams told CNN on Wednesday that he supports some of the mayor’s policies but is concerned that it lacks the specifics to address long-term medical concerns.
“New York City residents want to be safe and want to be able to use the subway,” he said. “But if you ask them, they don’t want the police arresting people for a mental health crisis. They want people to have help and a continuum of care. The problem with this plan is that it doesn’t say what the continuum of care is.”
Andy Bershad, a former NYPD detective, was equally critical, saying he was concerned about the training of NYPD officers and potential consequences.
“Are we thinking about potential scenarios when things go bad?” he said. “If I pick up a patient who doesn’t want to go or go against their will, and now I’m picking them up involuntarily, what does that do to the uniformed officers, the EMS providers?”