Ex-Gov. David Paterson has it right: Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to force far more psych evaluations of street homeless who seem seriously mentally ill “not only will help to keep [dangerous] individuals off the streets, it’s going to help the individuals themselves.”
Adams himself was clear: “Without that intervention, they remain lost and isolated from society, tormented by delusions and disordered thinking. They cycle in and out of hospitals and jails.”
Yes, the plan announced Nov. 29 is a work in progress: The city will need more psychiatric-hospital beds to execute it at scale, for example. But, as Adams says, “The starting point was for us to say, ‘We’re not accepting this anymore.’”
The usual suspects rushed to call it “criminalization of mental illness,” since cops will sometimes need to force people in for professional evaluation. But they’re not arresting these folks, let alone sending them to Rikers, and Adams says it won’t be police-driven.
Look: A half-century of deinstitutionalization has left street madmen and -women experiencing psychotic episodes in public. It’s obscene to leave them free but unable to meet their basic needs — food, shelter and clothing — with the illness itself preventing them from realizing they need help.
The homeless man just found stabbed to death at the West 4th Street station is just one example of how heartless the self-appointed “homeless advocates” truly are.
As Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a Columbia professor of psychiatry, medicine and law, told City & State, the policy can bring “a reduction of criminalization rather than an increase in it,” as it can prevent “further criminalization of people with mental illness.” How is it humane to leave them free until they do something that does send them to Rikers?
NYPD brass ordered officers to start implementing the new policy Friday. Yes, cops will get more training in how to do it, so they’ll likely begin with only the most obvious cases. But they’ve gotten round after round of training in handling “emotionally-distressed persons” in recent years, and knowing they now have the power to get homeless evaluated even if they don’t pose a clear immediate threat to others is the biggest single step.
The state and ideally the feds should step up by, among other things, adding psychiatric beds (Gov. Kathy Hochul has already started reversing her predecessors’ policy of eliminating them). The city will likely need more supportive housing, too, so the homeless have somewhere to go after evaluation and treatment besides back to a makeshift encampment.
Instead of throwing rocks, advocates for the homeless mentally ill should work with City Hall on closing the loopholes in Kendra’s Law that make it hard for families to get treatment for a loved one, as well as amending HIPAA so family aren’t shut out of treatment, care and case-management.
Living on the street or in jails and prisons is a rotten substitute for mental-health treatment. As Paterson also said, Adams’ initiative is “what we should’ve been doing the last 15 or 20 years.” Indeed.