Mayor Adams’ Plan to Forcibly Detain New Yorkers with Mental Illness is “Dangerous”

Mayor is once again deploying the NYPD as the city’s de-facto mental health workers

Photos: YouTube

New York, NY — Tuesday, Mayor Adams announced a sweeping effort allowing law enforcement to involuntarily detain New Yorkers who are perceived to be suffering from a mental health crisis. Outraged by the move to give NYPD unilateral power to detain people against their will regardless of whether or not they are a threat to themselves or others, Communities United for Police Reform and CPR member organizations have released the following statements:

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) spokesperson Keli Young (she/her) said, “Sweeping detention of people who may or may not be struggling with their mental health, as determined by unqualified law enforcement officers is not just unconscionable, it’s dangerous. The Mayor is once again deploying the NYPD as the city’s de-facto mental health workers instead of making the life-saving investments in mental health services and housing. The NYPD has a documented history of killing people they perceive to be in a mental health crisis and there is nothing in the Mayor’s plan to suggest that this will be any less deadly.

“Rounding up individuals, sending them to hospital emergency rooms against their will, and holding them there for undetermined amounts of time fails to address the lack of adequate mental health services in this city. This is not a solution, this is coercion and control and it will not make things safer for anyone.

“One week after he proposed cutting funding to the city agencies that provide these critical services, the Mayor is making vague promises about committing to mental health prevention services and critical wrap-around support such as housing. People struggling with serious mental illness need community-based care with providers they trust and with services that support their self-determination. The Mayor should be making real investments in these programs instead of vague and empty promises. We need real community investment into solutions that support our communities like housing and mental health services, not increased policing.”

Other local community advocates spoke out against Mayor Adams’ announcement.

“The Mayor’s involuntary removals plan is just a way for the NYPD to move unhoused and mentally ill people out of sight and out of mind. While the rhetoric is compassionate, the plan itself is heartless. Similarly to the Mayor’s previous safety plans, it lacks the substance to make good on its promises. At a time when the City has over 3,000 vacancies in social service agencies, it is irresponsible to implement a plan for warehousing people in need in hospital psychiatric wards without addressing the City’s profound challenges in connecting communities to mental health resources. A generation of Black families in Central Brooklyn has already been torn apart by the City’s involuntary hospitalization policies in the ’80s and ’90s that locked up our loved ones under the guise of “treatment.” In 2022, we deserve a new vision for supporting New Yorkers through crisis that honors our dignity and moves people in need from the streets into stability. Mayor Adams’ Giuliani-era policies will only give the same results we’ve already gotten: long-term psychiatric incarceration with no pathway to wellness.” – Anthonine Pierre, Executive Director of Brooklyn Movement Center 

“Mayor Adam’s involuntary hospitalization directive and overall approach to “psychiatric crisis care” expands the criminalization of some of New York’s most vulnerable residents, including those struggling with mental illness, substance use disorder, and homelessness. Transporting people to hospitals against their will is traumatizing, strips individual’s of their dignity and agency, and is, all too often, significantly more harmful than helpful, especially given our healthcare systems’ general inadequacies and drug-dependent approach to treatment. As the NYPD killings of Iman Morales (2008), Mohamed Bah (2012), Saheed Vassell (2018), Deborah Danner (2016), Kawaski Trawick (2019) and too many others demonstrate, the NYPD has no business being first responders for those in need of care and support. Instead of police, our communities need peer-based crisis response alternatives and deep investment in culturally competent, community based, mental health inclusive healthcare, truly affordable housing, employment opportunities, and other services and infrastructure that are the social determinants of community wellness.” – Anthony Feliciano, Justice Committee representative

“At the root of this issue is a real problem: no long-term care or support for people struggling with mental illness, and the revolving door at hospitals that can only temporarily fix the problem. But Mayor Adams’ answer is more of his go-to solution: criminalization and imprisonment. Without big investments in long-term housing and mental health, and without fundamentally changing our healthcare system, Adams is essentially just trying to displace this crisis from city streets to city hospitals — which are already over capacity. It’s not fair to health care workers, and it’s certainly not fair to the homeless and mentally ill New Yorkers the mayor wants to detain against their will.” – Leo Ferguson, Director of Strategic Projects at Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ)

“The Drug Policy Alliance is deeply disturbed by Mayor Adams’ announcement today. Instead of focusing on efforts in communities to provide support for those experiencing homelessness and resources to meet their daily needs, the Mayor is invoking a militarized police force with an abysmal record of killing New Yorkers with mental health challenges and long history of enforcing discretionary actions like this one in an extremely racially disproportionate manner. Evidence shows that forced treatment is not effective in addressing co-occurring disorders of mental health and substance use – and coercive treatment does not address the root causes of people’s difficulty in meeting their basic living needs. The Mayor’s directive ignores the fact that access to mental health care is significantly limited on the basis of cost, cultural competency, and insurance, causing many people who are voluntarily seeking compassionate care to be shut out. Under this directive, people who are among the most criminalized are at risk of being re-traumatized by more police engagement and a black hole of involuntary commitment. Criminalizing people for visible poverty and perpetuating racially discriminatory treatment is not care and we condemn this misguided strategy.” – Toni Smith-Thompson, New York State Director, Drug Policy Alliance

Read full statements from CPR members VOCAL-NY and NYCLU: 


VOCAL-NY Condemns Mayor Adams ‘Involuntary Assistance” Order That Will Harm New Yorkers


About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. CPR runs coalitions of over 200 local, statewide and national organizations, bringing together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.
Topics: NYC Budget Justice

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