NEW YORK - Mayor Eric Adams joined Good Day New York to discuss his controversial new policy to start forcing homeless people who are determined to be suffering a "mental health crisis" off the streets and out of the subway system. They will be taken to a hospital for evaluation even if they refuse to go on their own.
The city's new policy to move homeless people off the streets and into hospitals, possibly involuntarily, is facing tough criticism. It directs police officers and street outreach workers to transport someone to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation if they appear to be unable to meet their own basic needs.
But mental health professionals are condemning the plan, arguing it takes away a person's basic human rights. Advocates say "housing" is the best solution for homelessness.
New policy makes it easier for homeless people to be forcibly hospitalized
- According to the Coalition for the Homeless, over 60,000 people sleep in shelters in New York City on any given night – 50% more than a decade ago. The New York Civil Liberties Union likely violates New York state laws.
- The new policy gives police and first responders the power to hospitalize anyone who is believed to be unable to take care of themselves, whether they are violent or not.
- Unless kept in hospitals against their will and at exorbitant costs indefinitely, an unlikely scenario given the tight capacity of city hospitals, homeless people affected by the new policy will at some point be sent back into the streets.
- Advocates say homes are the cheapest solution to homelessness. More permanent supportive housing is required for people who experience both mental health issues and homelessness. But that kind of solution, the public providing housing alternatives for people who cannot provide for themselves, can be expensive and politically difficult.
- Mental health professionals are questioning the policy. "We are defaulting to an extreme that takes away basic human rights," said Matt Kudish, CEO of the New York chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "The city has the power to provide onsite treatment, as well as treatment in homeless shelters or supported housing, but has chosen not to."
- The cost of efforts to fight homelessness is inversely proportional to how effective they are. Providing supportive and affordable housing is much cheaper than operating emergency shelters, which in turn are much cheaper than hospitalizing people.
- Problem with psychiatric care for mentally ill, not enough beds in hospitals.
- Many NYPD are worried it puts them in a precarious position.
- First responders will get additional training and have access to a hotline with mental health professionals.
While the NYPD is still formulating the plan, Mayor Adams says officers will get additional training and real-time support from mental health professionals. He framed the policy as a way to help people who need it.