Adams defends plan to involuntarily treat mentally ill

Health

FILE – Homeless Outreach personnel reach out to a person sleeping on a bench in the Manhattan subway system, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, in New York. In New York City’s latest effort to address a mental health crisis on its streets and subways, Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday, Nov. 29, that authorities would more aggressively intervene to help people in need of treatment, saying there was “a moral obligation” to do so, even if it means providing care to those who don’t ask for it. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

(NewsNation) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams is defending his plan to get mentally ill homeless people off the city’s streets and involuntarily send them to psychiatric hospitals, insisting it was the right thing to do and doubling down against critics.

Adams pushed back, saying it’s the city’s moral obligation to help.

“Flawed is a city that walks past people who you know, can’t take care of basic needs and they are in danger to themselves,” Adams said. “I didn’t become mayor to climb a hill. I became mayor to climb a mountain; this is a mountain that I’m climbing.”

On Nov. 29, Adams announced his new pathway policy allowing the New York City Police Department and New York City Fire Department to force mentally ill people into hospitals, even if they refuse treatment and do not pose a present danger.

Yet, critics say it raises human rights issues, overwhelms an already burdened health care system, and the New York Police Department wasn’t informed.

However, on Wednesday, the NYPD released a statement saying in part: “We have been working with the mayor’s office for months regarding this important initiative. We are currently in the process of aligning its policy, guidance, and training in conformance with the mayor’s directive which the department received on Tuesday.”

Adams’ new policy comes at a time when crime is up nearly 27 percent in New York City, and transit crime is up 33.4 percent.

Roughly 50,000 people are homeless, living on the city’s streets and in the subway system, and one in every three children lives below the poverty line.

Adams partly blames the pandemic for the increasing homeless population and warns of more people living in the subway system during the colder months.

Kenneth Raske, the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said he supports Adams’ plan. Still, it will be a challenge as psychiatric issues are episodic and just allocating beds is not an option.

“We are going to work steadfastly with this administration to make this a reality,” Raske said. “Of course there are hurdles. And those hurdles could be, you know, reimbursement issues, expansion of capacity, what have you.”

Adams says his office has already committed one person to the hospital under his new policy.

When asked to give further insight, Adams said he couldn’t report more details due to HIPPA laws. But he said many private hospitals have agreed to his plan.

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