NYC's involuntary hospitalization plan challenged in court

Mayor Eric Adams' plan to involuntarily hospitalize New Yorkers showing signs of severe mental illness is now being met with a legal challenge. 

A group of lawyers and advocates are asking a federal judge to immediately halt the implementation of Adams' mental health policy.

"People are now scared to leave their homes because they think that they may get picked up by the police and involuntarily transported to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation," said Marinda van Dalen, a senior staff attorney with the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, or NYLPI, one of the groups that brought forward this lawsuit.

The federal court motion filed last Thursday alleges that Adams' mental health plan is too broad, lacks details and argues the policy violates the U.S. Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The motion was added to an existing class action lawsuit, which was filed at the end of last year, that is challenging the role of the NYPD in responding to mental health crises.

Van Dalen said that police can, at times, exacerbate the issue.

"They arrive often in police cars with sirens and lights in some circumstances," van Dalen explained. "They'll draw a weapon and they're loud and they're acting like police officers."

Adams has claimed that the city has a moral obligation to help someone who is clearly in a crisis.

But some mental health advocates argue that this decision should not be left up to police.

The motion includes a statement from Steven Greene, 27, who has post-traumatic stress disorder after being involuntarily and violently taken to a hospital in 2020 after someone falsely reported that he was suicidal. Since the mayor's announcement, Greene said he has been afraid to leave his apartment over fear that he will be detained again for just having a mental disability.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the mayor's legal department said, "Mayor Adams' compassionate plan to connect New Yorkers with severe mental illness to support and care fully complies with federal and state law, and we look forward to making our case before the court."

Van Dalen said NYLPI asked the court to handle this case on an expedited basis.

"We've asked for expedited discovery to find out more about what the city is doing already and how it intends to implement this policy," van Dalen said. 

Right now, a federal judge is still considering whether to grant a temporary stay on the mayor's new mental health policy to keep it from moving forward. A procedural hearing was held on Monday afternoon to set terms on the discovery process.