Forced hospitalization plan will not reduce crime

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Adriana Maria Lopez Tavares

Mayor Eric Adams issued a directive on Nov. 29 that authorized outreach workers, city-operated hospitals and first responders to transport presumed mentally ill individuals to hospitals involuntarily.

The Adams administration’s approach to New York City’s mental health crisis is ineffective. Rather than subjecting ailing individuals to unwanted treatment and incarceration, the city should develop assistive services to truly serve the mentally ill.

People who are transported to the hospital under Adams’ directive will be referred to support services rather than discharged. This benefit shouldn’t be reserved to those who have been forced to relocate; it should be offered to patients who are already in hospitals.

At the moment, homeless people who enter hospitals due to a mental health crisis are discharged a few days later. Providing support to those who desire it is more efficient than forcing individuals to accept assistance.

“Mayor Adams continues to get it wrong when it comes to his reliance on ineffective surveillance, policing and involuntary transport and treatment of people with mental illness,” Jacquelyn Simone, executive directive of the Coalition for the Homeless, said.

Adams also recently proposed an 11-point series of reforms in state law that governs how New Yorkers suffering from mental illness should be treated. In his legislative agenda, he describes involuntary hospitalization as an essential component of a functional mental health care system.

Involuntary hospitalizations are harmful because they violate people’s right to choose the appropriate course of action in their circumstances. Mental illness is not a crime and should not be punished as such.

The mayor’s actions were provoked by a series of violent crimes committed by people suffering from untreated mental conditions, according to Gothamist. The most recent was a woman who stabbed her children to death.

Total crime in October 2022 has grown by 5.9% over the past year, based on a report by the New York City Police Department. Police reported that 30 homicides took place in the city in November, up from 25 during the same month in 2021.

Though the directive’s underlying purpose of shielding New Yorkers from crime is commendable, the strategy it employs will not prove conducive to such an outcome.

Implementing laws that permit people to be relocated unwillingly is a dangerous path that can lead to a general loss of personal rights.

An accurate assessment of an individual’s mental health is impossible to determine from brief observation, which could be marred by biases or human error, allowing specific groups to be targeted more than others.

“Homeless people are more likely to be the victims of crimes than the perpetrators, but Mayor Adams has continually scapegoated homeless people and others with mental illness as violent,” Coalition for the Homeless said in a statement.

A report by the New York Daily News indicated that homeless people diagnosed with mental health illnesses were not placed in proper facilities, leading to deaths, suicides and violent crimes.

Of the report’s dataset, 26% were sent to facilities that could not offer them individualized support.

If Adams wants to decrease the high crime rates in New York City, then he must redirect the resources going toward the execution of his latest directive to bolster the city’s mental health services.