While New York City Mayor Eric Adams has had some limited success in reducing the city’s crime rate during his first year in office, it is not nearly enough. Statistics may show that the number of murders citywide decreased for the month of October by 32.6% compared to the same period last year. But such statistics are no consolation to the victims viciously attacked by deranged assailants or to the families of those who lost their lives from random shootings or stabbings. Walking the streets of New York City or riding its subways feels far less safe than it did a decade ago because it is in fact far less safe.
Mayor Adams knows this and has called for significant changes in New York State’s reckless no-bail law, but he has gotten nowhere with New York Governor Kathleen Hochul, who was just elected to serve for the next four years, or with New York State’s legislature. And Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has made things worse with his kid gloves treatment of dangerous criminals. Despite these hurdles in holding down New York City’s violent crime rate, however, Mayor Adams may have just come up with a plan to constructively address a significant factor contributing to the crime problem. His plan targets the severely mentally ill individuals on the city’s streets and subways who are untreated and potentially dangerous to themselves or others.
Not surprisingly, left-wing progressives have cried foul. These social justice warriors insist, preposterously, that individuals with severe mental illness have a fundamental right to refuse any psychiatric intervention for treatment while remaining free to move around menacingly on New York’s streets and subways.
Not only does Mayor Adams’ plan address one of the underlying reasons for the rise in random violence committed against people simply going about their business in the city. Mayor Adams’ plan seizes the moral high ground on this issue because it addresses the problem of severely mentally ill homeless people with compassion for the afflicted.
The mayor’s plan calls for taking preventative measures to care for individuals experiencing severe mental illnesses left untreated and unsheltered in New York City’s streets and subways who are unable to meet their own basic human needs. Such individuals may be removed to a hospital involuntarily, if necessary, for the purpose of psychiatric evaluation for admission if such individuals are conducting themselves in a manner likely to result in serious harm to themselves.
Police and peace officers are expected to be involved in the process, including making initial assessments and assisting in approved involuntary removals. However, except in emergency situations, it will generally be a designated clinician’s responsibility to determine whether to remove an individual to a hospital for an involuntary evaluation and possible admission. A designated clinician would include a licensed psychologist, registered professional nurse, licensed clinical social worker, or a licensed master social worker under the supervision of a physician, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker.
“My administration is determined to do more to assist people with mental illness, especially those with untreated psychotic disorders who pose a risk of harm to themselves, even if they are not an imminent threat to the public,” Mayor Adams said in an address he delivered on November 29th announcing his plan. “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,” he added.
Mayor Adams does not intend to wait for a violent incident to take place before taking action. His preventative plan is intended to help individuals with untreated severe mental illness to get the treatment they need in a timely fashion before they act out and inflict physical harm on themselves or others. Mayor Adams explained that “a common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent, suicidal, or presenting a risk of imminent harm. This myth must be put to rest. Going forward, we will make every effort to assist those who are suffering from mental illness and whose illness is endangering them by preventing them from meeting their basic human needs.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is among the myopic social justice warriors who have denounced Mayor Eric Adams’ plan. “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,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. She called Mayor Adams’ initiative an “attempt to police away homelessness and sweep individuals out of sight.”
No, Ms. Lieberman, Mayor Adams’ plan is a good faith attempt to get people caught in the downward spiral of severe mental illness the help they need while also protecting the public.
New Yorkers have a legal right to be able to walk the streets and ride the subways safely. Individuals with a severe untreated mental illness that is likely to cause these individuals to do harm to themselves or to others should not remain free to refuse treatment while continuing to menace the public.
As for dedicating more resources to address the mental health crisis, as Ms. Lieberman suggests, the Democrats have run New York State and New York City for years. They have run the federal government for the last two years. Ms. Lieberman and her comrades should lobby these presumably sympathetic government officials for more money to fund more long-term mental health programs. And perhaps Ms. Lieberman should also look into the unaccounted for $850 million or so that Chirlane McCray, former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, received for her pet mental health project, ThriveNYC, before asking for more money.
No matter what, Mayor Adams’ efforts to address today’s urgent mental health crisis with his responsible plan must move forward for the sake of all people who live, work, or are tourists in New York City.