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Morning Spew

This Friday, New Yorkers Are Pushing Back Against City Hall’s Involuntary Hospitalization Plan

A rally on the steps of City Hall as a legal challenge to the new policy is filed, and other links to start your day.

9:48 AM EST on December 9, 2022

Ibrahim X speaks on the steps of City Hall about his experiences with mental illness, forced hospitalization, and the NYPD. (Hell Gate)

"Don't call this a plan," Brooklyn Councilmember Alexa Aviles told a crowd of homeless advocates, doctors, disability rights activists, and those currently managing mental health issues, on the steps of City Hall on Thursday. "This is disappearing people."

Aviles was talking about the Adams's administration announcement last week that it would give discretion to police officers, as well as other civil servants, to "involuntarily" take people experiencing a mental health crisis to hospitals, where they would be treated by consistently overwhelmed medical professionals, and possibly wait weeks for an available bed in psychiatric care.

The rally on Thursday, organized by the group Communities United for Police Reform, coincided with the first legal challenge to the new policy in federal court, which alleges the directive violates a previous lawsuit settlement the City agreed to, and also is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

"In our emergency departments, if people don't comply to testing, they'll be restrained, either chemically or mechanically with straps. I see these individuals sit and wait in our emergency departments for days, waiting until psychiatric beds open up in other facilities while our hospital is full," said Dr. Shane Solger, an emergency room doctor in Brooklyn. "Ultimately, these patients will receive care in a healthcare system that is already stretched thin, rather than offering any sustainable health benefit. We have no way to address their underlying issues."

Speakers pointed to the lack of available supportive housing and a dearth of funding for more social workers and street outreach teams as indicative of the priorities of the Adams administration: more funding for law enforcement, and less for everything else. 

"We're flesh and blood people, with flesh and blood friends, who care about other New Yorkers, but what they care about is removing the reality of days and weeks and years of oppression—they just don't want to see us," said Ibrahim X, a member of VOCAL-NY who has been involuntarily committed already this year. "I don’t want you to call the police on me just because I’m muttering to myself. I want you to care about me."

The names of Saheed Vassell, Deborah Danner, and Kawaski Trawick were brought up multiple times—all people experiencing a mental health crisis, who were shot to death by the NYPD, instead of helped. 

While announcing the plan, which was done without consultation with the NYPD, City Council, or many service providers, the Adams administration said that fifty new psychiatric beds would help lessen the strain on the city's hospital system, and that police officers would receive further training on how to deal with people experiencing a crisis. But the policy itself is now already in effect, and no police officers have yet received training. 

Adams has defended the directive by saying that it's compassionate. But for some of those dealing with mental health issues, compounded by incarceration, lack of housing, and years of trauma, the policy rings hollow and ineffectual. 

"Before you can help us, you gotta care about us," said Ibrahim X.

—Reporting by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Some links as we head into the weekend:

  • Mayor Eric Adams wants to build, build, build, especially in the Bronx
  • But City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams had some pointed questions and criticism after Adams made his announcement. Hmmm, loosening regulations while gutting the administrative state? What's happening here?
  • A reminder that only freaks talk to strangers on the subway.
  • And finally, totally normal political club, nothing to see here!

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