As part of his ongoing efforts to get a handle on the city’s sprawling mental health crisis, Mayor Eric Adams has issued a directive clarifying that the city’s Health Department (DOHMH) and first responders have legal standing to involuntarily commit individuals with mental health issues to a hospital if they appear to be a danger to themselves “due to an inability to meet their basic needs.” A lawsuit attempting to stop the program was denied in January.

“A common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent, suicidal, or presenting a risk of imminent harm,” Adams said in a City Hall address unveiling the new directive Tuesday morning. “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 mayor said that the city’s clinicians, outreach workers and first responders will continue to try and persuade individuals with apparent mental health issues to seek services voluntarily, before taking action to remove them from city streets and subways against their will. He emphasized the point of the directive is to clarify that state law already allows the city to involuntarily commit people who aren’t meeting their “basic needs.”

The new policy drew mixed reactions from elected officials and even condemnation from organizations such as the Coalition for the Homeless and the New York Civil Liberties Union — the latter of which compared Adams’ directive to a brutish policy “from the failed Giuliani playbook.”

City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams blasted Adams, in an emailed statement, for continuing to put the NYPD on the front lines of handling mental health emergencies. Williams, however, gave the mayor his due for implementing some of his office’s mental health recommendations, such as drop-in centers, safe-haven style shelters and stabilization beds.


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