Mental illness advocates call for restraining order to stop removal scheme

A new New York City program that sends more homeless people with mental illness to hospitals against their will if they are deemed a danger to themselves met its first on Thursday. legal challenge.

In a federal court motion filed against an existing lawsuit, a civil rights law firm argues that the new policy, which allows officers to take someone to a hospital against their will, violates constitutional rights to due process and protection from wrongful abuse . Search and Seizure. The motion asks for a temporary restraining order preventing the policy from taking effect.

Police have “little expertise” in dealing with people with mental disabilities who may be “forcibly – often violently – detained”, the document said.

The request comes nine days after Mayor Eric Adams announced the plan. He said the city has a “moral obligation” to immediately help the hundreds of people who are unable to meet basic needs like food, shelter and health care due to mental illness, even if they pose no threat to others.

New Yorkers in mental health crises routinely cycle through hospitals, prisons and streets. gentlemen. Adams said he will push hospitals to keep patients until they are stable and have plans for long-term care. But critics point out that shortages of hospital beds, adequate housing and outpatient care will make it difficult to end the cycle.

The New York State Law Department said in an email that Mayor Adams’ plan complies with federal and state law and will be pursued in court.

Last year, the law firm of Beldock Levine & Hoffman, the New York Association of Public Interest Lawyers and other attorneys representing several individuals and advocacy groups filed a new motion. It challenges the way the police department deals with so-called “emotionally disturbed persons.” The city moved to dismiss the lawsuit in September, but the federal judge in the case, Paul A. Crotty, has yet to rule on the city’s request.

Thursday’s motion argues that the new policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and New York City’s Human Rights Act, as well as constitutional rights. According to the motion, under the new policy, an officer can involuntarily remove someone based on a perceived mental illness rather than “nothing more.” The motion said the policy would pose a “concrete risk” that people would be detained “simply for living sick in public.”

The motion includes a statement from the plaintiff in the lawsuit, who suffers from PTSD and said he was violently detained and involuntarily taken to a hospital in 2020 after someone lied to 911 that he was suicidal. The 27-year-old man, Steven Greene, said he had been afraid to leave his apartment since the mayor’s announcement because he feared he would be forced into the hospital “just because he was a people with mental disabilities”.

Under the mayor’s plan, police and mental health workers would be directed to take people to hospitals if their behavior endangered them. A hotline staffed by clinicians will be set up to advise police on whether someone meets the criteria.

State law on involuntary hospitalization authorizes police to take a mentally ill person to the hospital only if the person’s actions “could cause serious harm to themselves or others.”

Guidance issued by the state in February said the standard included “people who demonstrate an inability to meet basic living needs” and applied it only to people who appeared to be in “imminent danger”, which would put vulnerable groups at risk. gentlemen. Adams’ directive builds on broader language, saying that grounds for hospitalization may include “an unconscious or delusional misunderstanding of one’s surroundings, or of one’s physical condition or health.”

Motions seeking restraining orders challenge hypothetical examples. Adams provided who is covered by the new policy. The mayor said the plan would target “the tai chi boxer on a midtown street corner talking to himself as he jabs an invisible opponent,” among other examples.

The motion states that this description “does not describe a person who is unable to meet their basic needs, let alone meet the criteria for severe danger.”

It added that the city’s plan “did not detail how officials would actually determine whether Mayor Adams’ tai chi boxer was failing to meet his basic needs or was merely exercising.”

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