Eric Adams’ Plan To Forcibly Hospitalize Mentally Ill People Will Only Harm Them

The mayor of New York City announced plans to have NYPD forcibly hospitalize people experiencing mental health crises

NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced a plan on Tuesday to use NYPD cops to remove mentally ill people from public spaces and even involuntarily commit them. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a plan to address the growing mental health crisis in the city – much of it involving an escalated use of NYPD officers to “remove” those experiencing a crisis from public spaces, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

The Adams announcement came during a Tuesday morning press conference this week where Adams laid out a framework for who will be trained to deal with these calls and how they will handle them moving forward. The involuntary aspect of these removals, subsequent transfers to hospitals around the city, and likely targeting of the city’s homeless population led to condemnation from groups like the Coalition for the Homeless and VOCAL-NY, a nonprofit organization that runs a Homeless Union to advocate for the rights of the unhoused.

In a press release, the group condemned Adams’ announcement as “a draconian attempt to say the Adams’ administration is tackling a problem, while only making it worse.”

“The lives of people dealing with mental health crises won’t be improved by forcing them into treatment, especially if it’s coming from law enforcement. All this directive will do is disappear them,” said Jawanza Williams, the group’s Director of Organizing. 

By “disappear them,” Williams and VOCAL-NY are referring to the prospect of people, specifically Black and brown homeless New Yorkers, being forcibly transferred into the hospital system. They are effectively taken without notice, are unable to notify anyone about their whereabouts, and don’t know when they’ll be discharged.

“Homeless people are more likely to be the victims of crimes than the perpetrators, but Mayor Adams has continually scapegoated homeless people and others with mental illness as violent,” Jacquelyn Simone, Policy Director for the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement. “Further, his focus on involuntary transport and treatment ignores that many people cannot access psychiatric care even on a voluntary basis.”

A report by Gothamist found that, since 2017, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a city agency that is supposed to investigate allegations of NYPD misconduct, has recorded close to 2,700 allegations of cops abusing their power by sending someone to the hospital against their will along with over 400 more allegations that involved cops threatening to send people to the hospital against their will.

The NYPD also has a history of brutalizing and killing people going through mental health crises like Mohamad Bah in 2012, Deborah Danner in 2016, Dwayne Jeune in 2017, Saheed Vassell in 2018, and Kawaski Trawick in 2019.

Adrian Schoolcraft, a police whistleblower, was also involuntarily committed to a hospital by fellow NYPD officers in 2009 shortly after voicing his concerns about corruption and abuse at the NYPD’s 81st Precinct.

The city has tried implementing programs that would try and assist those experiencing mental health crises, like B-HEARD. But, as COPWATCH.MEDIA previously reported, only 22% of 911 calls are being directed to B-HEARD, a pilot program where trained emergency workers would be able to respond to crisis calls as opposed to police officers. Also, only 11 out of the 77 precincts in New York City are supported by the program, limiting the scope of help that can be provided to those in need.

NYPD cops stationed outside of the 36th Street N/D/R subway stop in Brooklyn. (Ashoka Jegroo)

Beyond that, the city does not have the beds to handle a sudden influx of involuntary admissions. According to a report by Crain’s New York published after the Mayor’s announcement, there are over a thousand people on waiting lists for public mental health care in the city. The mayor was not even aware of this wait.

In September, Crain’s also investigated and found several steps in the process where mental health patients are often discharged immediately from hospitals lacking the facilities to assist them other than providing medication and sending them to community programs. This “institutional circuit,” the report found, has been a cycle that city hospitals have gone through for several years.

While the city describes their plan to involuntarily hospitalize people as a “compassionate new vision,” in practice it will be just the opposite.

“Rather than further involving police in mental health responses and urging City workers to involuntarily transport more people to hospitals, the administration should focus on expanding access to voluntary inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care, offering individual hotel rooms to all unsheltered people, and cutting through red tape that has left far too many permanent supportive housing units sitting vacant.,” Simone said. “Mayor Adams needs to focus on repairing our broken mental health system and prioritize bringing access to quality voluntary care and affordable, permanent housing with support services to New Yorkers who need it the most.”

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