New York, NY–Wednesday, Communities United for Police Reform, members of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus, mental health and housing advocates, social service providers, and other New York City community organizations rallied at City Hall to condemn Mayor Adams’ recently announced mental health directive that expands the scope and authority of the NYPD to involuntarily detain New Yorkers and force them into treatment. The attendees came together to demand that Adams roll back this dangerous new directive and instead invest in holistic public health-based approaches that work, mental health infrastructure and affordable housing options.
Of the directive, CPR spokesperson Anthonine Pierre said, “We are here today to demand that Mayor Adams roll back this dangerous plan that disguises forced treatment as compassionate care. Expanding the power of the NYPD to institutionalize people in crisis will harm, violate and traumatize the New Yorkers the mayor claims to help. NYPD officers are not equipped to decide if someone should be forced into mental health treatment, and they should not be the primary agency to address the mental health and housing needs of New Yorkers.
Instead of sending police to solve public health problems, the mayor should be increasing investments in the City’s mental health and affordable housing infrastructure—the true visionary solution for New Yorkers who don’t have homes or those who have mental illness. We shouldn’t sweep people who are suffering out of sight; as a city in a mental health crisis, we need a comprehensive mental health care system with preventative, crisis and sustainable follow-up treatments for all.”
“People are on the streets because they don’t have anywhere to go. They don’t have jobs. They don’t have the services they need. But instead of making a plan to address this, the Mayor is actually cutting budgets for housing and mental health care. He just wants to throw more police at the problem but officers are not health professionals. They don’t have the skills to diagnose people or care for them. They only have the skills to criminalize and detain people.” — Eric Vassell, father of Saheed Vassell who killed by NYPD in 2018, and Justice Committee member
Council Member Carmen de la Rosa of the Progressive Caucus said “It is unconscionable that in the midst of seeking solutions, Mayor Adams and his administration are turning to forced interactions with law enforcement and involuntary hospitalizations as the first steps in aiding vulnerable New Yorkers. This plan will only put them in the crosshairs of the criminal legal system and an already overburdened public hospital system. We need to restore funding and staffing to the city agencies equipped to provide supportive housing and dignified healthcare.”
Other city officials and protest advocates made their opposition to Adams’ plan clear.
“The mayor’s plan is ill-advised as police officers do not have the expertise and empathy to appropriately respond to someone in crisis or in need of services. It is highly inappropriate to use police as a means to respond to people with mental health concerns. I wish the Mayor could put himself in someone else’s shoes. Someone who is struggling and attempting to survive may be seeking shelter in the subway. I want him to think about what type of response he would want to be met with. As someone who identifies as a peer—someone with lived mental health experience—I can say with certainty I would want to be met with someone who I can identify with. Instead of this inhumane directive, I urge the mayor to invest in a peer-led workforce, supportive housing, and other recovery-oriented services that will truly meet the needs of New Yorkers.” – Evelyn Graham Nyaasi, Advocacy Specialist at Community Access
“This policy impedes on people’s basic rights by effectively giving police the power to send people to the hospital if they don’t like them or don’t like what they are saying. I have experienced this firsthand. I was in front of my residence in Lindenhurst on Long Island when I asked police officers if I was under arrest. After I was told no, they then had me hospitalized,” said Sterling Cash, member of the Safety Net Activists. “This is an escalation of the Mayor’s sweeping policies that displace and harm homeless people. The statistics and data show that these policies don’t work and cause more harm. We call on the Mayor to review these issues and data, reverse this policy and instead provide people with the housing and support they need.”
“Involuntarily hospitalizing homeless people with severe mental health conditions against their will, traumatizes, not treats them. Hiding cannot fix a public health emergency, real action can. We need to fix our broken public health system by making investments in affordable, accessible mental health services that include trauma-informed, person-centered, and culturally responsive care. We have to design, plan and implement a system for everyone, and the people impacted daily should be a part of the process. Members of the New York City Police Department are law enforcement officers. Relying on them to be mental health professionals and party to involuntary hospitalizations criminalizes people who need help, and places law enforcement officers in an unfair position. We have to stop thinking of people with mental health conditions as a problem, we need to regard and respect them as human beings who need our help.” – Assemblymember Monique Chandler-Waterman
“As a former public defender who has represented countless New Yorkers with serious mental illness, I have deep concerns with Mayor Adams’ proposal to involuntarily detain and hospitalize our neighbors,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “While the Mayor is accurately identifying the mental health crisis as a critical problem in our city and accurately identifying the root of that problem as a lack of a ‘continuum of care,’ his proposed solutions do nothing to build out more care infrastructure, and, instead, rely on police officers to do medically sensitive outreach work. Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to travel across the country to visit and learn from other cities who have built out ‘alternative response’ programs: programs that have full-time, trained mental health experts as the first responders to any mental health or distress calls. We can – and must – follow those models here in New York City. Further, we need solutions that build out a real continuum of care: more psychiatric beds, safe respite centers, permanent supportive housing, and OPCs – so that we’re limiting the amount of times that first responders have to respond to crises at all. Partnering with organizations like CPR to advance outcome-driven solutions to make our city safer and healthier is my top priority and I look forward to working together to deliver the long-term results New Yorkers expect.”
“When hospitals and the police department admit they’re shocked by the Mayor’s mental health order, you should recognize that we have a problem,” said Council Member Alexa Avilés. “Disappearing people or removing them for days at a time is not a solution. Our City and state has been defunding mental health care for decades. We need a real plan for addressing the crisis of mental health we’re seeing across our City. We need a plan with adequate funding that addresses the shortage of psychiatric beds, shortage of workers and the lack of continuum of care for New Yorkers experiencing mental illness. These are conversations we can and should have. To shift more of our resources to policing when it comes to mental health response is a mistake — and a deadly one at that. We have been down this road before. Mayor Adams needs to rescind this order and rethink this administration’s approach to the lack of adequate mental health care.”
“The forced hospitalization of our neighbors will not keep us safe. Investments in supportive housing, comprehensive mental healthcare, and peer-centered responses will,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “The Mayor’s cruel plan to cycle vulnerable New Yorkers in and out of hospital beds is a cosmetic Giuliani-era approach that lacks any serious policy merit. Just like his encampment sweeps rolled out at the beginning of the year, using the NYPD to arbitrarily take people off the street for a limited time will only give the illusion of a real solution while failing to provide people with the long-term care they need. Additionally, this half-baked plan will increase interactions between the NYPD and people experiencing mental health crises–putting them at risk for dangerous use of force and needless engagement with the criminal justice system. I call on the Administration to build out the infrastructure needed to reduce the likelihood of mental health crises from occurring in the first place and shift towards a crisis response system that focuses on care, not punitive enforcement.”
“This is the latest in Mayor Adams’ inhumane attempts to forcibly disappear people instead of truly addressing the crises facing this city. The Mayor’s directive will only further destabilize and traumatize people without actually connecting them to the ongoing resources and services they need. This doesn’t get our people closer to being permanently housed, it doesn’t get them closer to securing long term mental health care. This is coercion, not care.”- Keli Young, Civil Rights Campaign Coordinator at VOCAL-NY
“As a longtime resident of NYCHA in East Harlem, I know that true public safety means securing the resources urgently needed by my community and so many other communities. Tenants in NYCHA face crumbling buildings in desperate need of repairs and then walk outside to face violent interactions with the NYPD. Instead of investing in what our communities need, the Mayor has moved to expand the power and scope of the NYPD in cases of mental health crisis. This is a dangerous and dehumanizing use of city resources that hurts everyday New Yorkers, and we reject it. Instead, we call for major investments in housing and robust citywide mental health supports.” – Alim Cepeda, Member of Citizen Action of New York
“The mayor’s directive is a dangerous façade to substitute real solutions with jail by another name and will result in more trauma and instability for New Yorkers in vulnerable situations. We need to be clear about what’s at stake: this directive goes far beyond anything related to mental health conditions and mobilizes the NYPD to sweep up essentially anyone who is experiencing street homelessness and disappear them. In contrast, actually supporting New Yorkers who are grappling with a lack of housing and other conditions would mean removing barriers to accessing voluntary treatment and housing options, particularly for people with co-occurring disorders. The Mayor should have instead directed his administration to act immediately to fill the 2,600 vacant supportive housing units that people urgently need yet are caught in bureaucratic red tape instead of turning to a militarized police force that has no place in a conversation about healthcare needs”. – Toni Smith-Thompson, NY State Director, Drug Policy Alliance
“Let’s be clear — ‘involuntary detention’ just means ‘arrest.’ Rather than directing those who need services to long-term opportunities for care and support, or allowing New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities their right to exist in public space, this new policy would limit the rights of our families, friends and neighbors and expose them to potentially traumatic, dangerous, or even deadly interactions with police. The mayor’s policy has nothing to do with helping people in need. It is a policy designed to push them into the shadows using the only tool the mayor seems to understand: blunt force, leaving our already overburdened healthcare workers scrambling to help people they don’t have the resources to help.” — Leo Ferguson, Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ)
“The Mayor is playing fast and loose with the legal rights of New Yorkers and is not dedicating the resources necessary to address the mental health crises that affect our communities. Forcing people into treatment is a failed strategy for connecting people to long-term treatment and care. The Mayor’s attempt to police away homelessness and sweep individuals out of sight is a page from the failed Giuliani playbook. With no real plan for housing, services, or supports, the administration is choosing handcuffs and coercion,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director.
“Involuntarily hospitalizing and sending police to deal with people who suffer from mental illness rather than relying on mental health professionals and investing in affordable, high quality, culturally competent services — and making sure that those who are sent to facilities are being adequately taken care of – will only harm the people Mayor Adams is seeking to help,” said Aaliyah Guillory-Nickens, Campaign Organizer at Youth Represent. “It is time we start holistically addressing issues and actually start treating humans like humans.”
“As physicians who care for patients experiencing homelessness and the impact of mass incarceration every day, it is clear to us that Mayor Adams’ Mental Health Involuntary Removals directive will cause tremendous harm, and we stand with advocates and community groups on the ground fighting back,” said Dr. Shane Solger, a delegate for the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) and a resident physician at Kings County Hospital. “This announcement only underscores what we actually need as New Yorkers: Affordable housing, food, and access to comprehensive health care, including community-based mental health care, as well as better staffing in our hospitals.”
“The City has chosen to continue to invest in a law enforcement response despite the deaths and harm that have occurred during mental health emergencies. We need a mental health response to a mental health crisis that centers families and individuals affected by mental illness.” – Matt Kudish, LMSW, MPA, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City
“Peer supporters and clubhouse members have long walked towards not away from New Yorkers in distress, per the Mayor’s recent comments. But we come to promote, hope, help, health and housing. This ever-worsening crisis requires us to, at long last, address longstanding systemic failures of our mental health and related systems to provide alternatives to homelessness, incarceration, relapses, loneliness, suicide and overdoses. We know how to help….help us help them Mayor Adams and cease your campaign that will increase coercion, criminalization, confinement and the cops.” – Harvey Rosenthal, CEO New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services
“New York has a serious shortage of mental health services available to homeless people, including those on Medicaid or uninsured. Consequently, many people lack access to voluntary treatment. Rather than focusing on coercive mechanisms to force people into mental health care, the Mayor would do better to enhance voluntary services, including ensuring that comprehensive behavioral health services are available throughout the City’s homeless services system” stated Charles King, President, and CEO of Housing Works.
“My uncle who has schizophrenia and experienced homelessness for many years was shot by police while experiencing a mental health crisis. I know the pain and fear this brings to families of loved ones with serious mental illness. I hear that fear every week in my work as a psychiatrist, when speaking to my patients and their families who refuse to call police in times of crisis, knowing how deadly that “call for help” can be. Those experiencing homelessness with mental illness do need our help, but forcibly removing people from our streets and dropping them off at emergency departments is not the solution. If the mayor truly wants to help our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles who are living on the streets, then we must invest in evidenced based solutions with a top priority being a massive increase in permanent supportive housing.” – Dr. Jackson, psychiatrist and chief resident, New York Doctors Coalition
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.