NYC paramedic doubts effectiveness of plan for homeless

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(NewsNation) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ controversial plan to involuntarily commit mentally ill homeless people to hospitals is still being debated. Will it work?

Anthony Almojera doesn’t think so. The lieutenant paramedic for the Fire Department’s EMS unit interacts with homeless people on a daily basis, and he knows many of them by name.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Almojera said he’s “never witnessed a mental health crisis like the one New York is currently experiencing.”

A man who was once homeless, Almojera overcame adversity and has been working as a paramedic for nearly 20 years. Now, he sees a city at a breaking point and a mayor with the wrong solution.

In November, Adams announced a new policy directing police and emergency services to forcibly hospitalize homeless people deemed too mentally ill to care for themselves. It was met with backlash and mental health professionals argued it was stripping people of their basic human rights.

The problem with the plan, Almojera argues, is a lack of long-term and sustainable resources to address the core of the problem. With overwhelmed doctors and hospital system, Almojera says the patients are often out in as little as two days.

“There’s no way to try and reintegrate these people in society in a positive, long and thought-out way,” Almojera said. “So, as somebody who was homeless, if you forced me into a hospital, convince me somehow that there’s hope there, and I’m back out in two days, do you think I feel better or worse? I feel worse.”

The policy will apply to even those who pose no threat to the public’s safety, and Adams has framed the plan as a way to help people who need it.

In a recent interview with a New York TV station, Adams said it is not a police-driven plan. He couldn’t provide an exact or approximate number of people who might be affected.

“This is a small specific group of people who can’t take care of their basic needs and they are dealing with mental health illness to the extent that they are a danger to themselves and others,” Adams said. “The goal is to zero in on them, get them the care and services they need and don’t wait until they do something that’s harmful.”

Almojera believes it will only lead to more burnout in a profession that has already been pushed to the brink by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We operate on the hope that our interventions are going to lead to a positive outcome, and that keeps us going. When we see (patients) two days later, it burns us out,” Almojera said. “If we’re not going to put it on the back end the resources to really solve these people’s problems and help them reintegrate, then we’re just spinning our wheels in the mud.”

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