NYC to Involuntarily Commit Mentally Ill in Effort to Curb Crime

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a new plan to involuntarily hospitalize some mentally ill individuals in an effort to combat crime in the city.

“New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced a new pathway forward to address the ongoing crisis of individuals experiencing severe mental illnesses left untreated and unsheltered in New York City’s streets and subways,” the mayor’s office said in a statement obtained by Newsweek. “In accordance with state law and court precedent, Mayor Adams’ directive clarifies that outreach workers, city-operated hospitals, and first responders have the legal authority to provide care to New Yorkers when severe mental illness prevents them from meeting their own basic human needs to the extent that they are a danger to themselves.”

The statement also noted that Adams’ plan hopes to dispel a “myth” that “the legal standard for involuntary intervention requires an “overt act” demonstrating that the person is violent, suicidal, or engaging in outrageously dangerous behavior likely to result in imminent harm.”

Eric Adams
New York City Mayor Eric Adams tours the New York Stock Exchange during morning trading on November 17, 2022, in New York City. On Tuesday, Adams announced a plan to allow city officials to involuntarily commit some individuals with mental illness.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The announcement by Adams comes as New York City continues to face a wave of crime. According to data from the New York Police Department (NYPD), throughout 2022, there have been over 114,000 crime complaints, which include murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto. In comparison, throughout the same period in 2021, there were 90,727 complaints.

“For too long, there has been a gray area where policy, law, and accountability have not been clear, and this has allowed people in need to slip through the cracks. This culture of uncertainty has led to untold suffering and deep frustration. It cannot continue,” Adams said while announcing his plan. “Going forward, we will focus on action, care, and compassion. If severe mental illness is causing someone to be unsheltered and a danger to themselves, we have a moral obligation to help them get the treatment and care they need.”

“We can no longer deny the reality that untreated psychosis can be a cruel and all-consuming condition that often requires involuntary intervention, supervised medical treatment, and long-term care. We will change the culture from the top down and take every action to get care to those who need it,” Adams added.

In a joint statement sent to Newsweek, The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, New York County Defender Services and the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem applauded the announcement from Adams.

“Rather than jailing people with underlying mental illnesses and similar disorders, and then abandoning them to a chaotic and unsupported transition process when they are released into the community, mental health and drug treatment courts along with the accompanying robust community services they provide, lead to greater public health and public safety,” the joint statement said.

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