December 8, 2022 Reposted from NYAPRS ENews
NYAPRS Note: NYAPRS greatly welcomes the action taken yesterday by our legal rights and mental health advocacy colleagues to legally challenge New York City’s new plan to take more homeless people with ‘perceived’ mental illnesses to hospitals against their will if they are deemed a danger to themselves. In collaboration with NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, NAMI-NYC, Community Access and Correct Crisis Intervention Today-NYC, a civil rights law firm argued that the new policy allows a police officer to commit a person to a hospital against his or her will, violating the constitutional right to due process and to protection from improper search and seizure. The motion calls for a temporary restraining order to block the policy from going into effect.
Police officers, the filing says, have “little to no expertise” in handling people with mental disabilities who could be “forcefully — often violently — detained.
The policy creates a “concrete risk” that people will be detained “for merely living with their illness while in a public place,” the motion says and that the new policy violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and the New York City Human Rights Law, as well as constitutional rights.
The group’s news release goes on to say “The plaintiffs include people who were arrested simply for having a mental health diagnosis – or even just being perceived of having a mental health diagnosis – and who were not a harm to themselves or others, but were nevertheless forcibly strapped to gurneys or otherwise restrained and taken against their will to a hospital.
Prior to the suit’s filing, NYPD was moving ahead with Eric Adams’ new mental illness policy, despite lack of training (see NY Post article below). “Big Apple cops have yet to receive training or detailed guidance on how to enforce Mayor Adams’ new mental health plan — but NYPD brass wants them to implement it anyway, according to a new order obtained by The Post.” NYPD officials initially said they were first made aware of the new plan when it was announced, but hours later, walked back that statement, denying leadership was blindsided and that it’s been in the works for “months.” Multiple high-placed sources confirmed to The Post, though, that police brass and NYPD lawyers rushed in the days after the announcement to get the policy on the books. One police source who has advised on NYPD Patrol Guide policy raised red flags over the vague wording that leaves the guidance open to wide interpretation.”
NYAPRS will continue to send out updates through the days ahead.
Advocates for Mentally Ill New Yorkers Ask Court to Halt Removal Plan
NY Times December 8, 2022
A motion in federal court called for a temporary restraining order, saying Mayor Eric Adams’s plan would violate constitutional rights.
Mayor Eric Adams said the city has a “moral obligation” to help people with mental illness living in the streets and subways.
New York City’s new plan to take more mentally ill homeless people to hospitals against their will if they are deemed a danger to themselves met its first legal challenge on Thursday.
In a federal court motion filed in an existing lawsuit, a civil rights law firm argues that the new policy allows a police officer to commit a person to a hospital against his or her will, violating the constitutional right to due process and to protection from improper search and seizure. The motion calls for a temporary restraining order to block the policy from going into effect.
Police officers, the filing says, have “little to no expertise” in handling people with mental disabilities who could be “forcefully — often violently — detained.”
The request comes nine days after Mayor Eric Adams announced the plan. He said the city had a “moral obligation” to immediately help the hundreds of people whose mental illness prevents them from taking care of basic needs such as food, shelter and health care, even if they pose no threat to others.
New Yorkers in a mental health crisis frequently cycle through hospitals, jails and the streets. Mr. Adams said he would push for hospitals to keep patients until they are stable and a long-term plan for care is in place. But critics note that shortages in hospital beds, appropriate housing and outpatient care will make ending that cycle difficult.
New York’s Law Department said in an email that Mayor Adams’s plan complies with federal and state laws, and that it would make its case in court.
The new motion came in a case filed last year by the firm Beldock Levine & Hoffman, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and other lawyers on behalf of several individuals and advocacy organizations. It challenges the way the Police Department handles what it calls an “emotionally disturbed person.” The city moved to dismiss that lawsuit in September, but the federal judge in the case, Paul A. Crotty, has not ruled yet on the city’s request.
Thursday’s motion argues that the new policy violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and the New York City Human Rights Law, as well as constitutional rights. Under the new policy, a police officer could remove someone involuntarily based on the perception of mental illness and “nothing more,” according to the motion. The policy creates a “concrete risk” that people will be detained “for merely living with their illness while in a public place,” the motion says.
The motion includes a statement from a plaintiff in the suit who has post-traumatic stress disorder and said he was violently detained and involuntarily taken to a hospital in 2020 after someone falsely reported to 911 that he was suicidal. The man, Steven Greene, 27, stated that since the mayor’s announcement, he has been afraid to leave his apartment for fear that he will be forcibly hospitalized “simply for being an individual with a mental disability.”
Under the mayor’s plan, both police officers and mental health workers will be instructed to have people taken to hospitals if their behavior endangers them. A hotline staffed by clinicians will be available to advise the police on whether a person meets that standard.
The state law on involuntary hospitalization empowers the police to have someone who appears mentally ill taken to the hospital only if the person’s conduct is “likely to result in serious harm to the person or others.”
Guidance issued by the state in February said that the standard includes people “who display an inability to meet basic living needs” and that applying it only to people who appear “imminently dangerous” leaves vulnerable people at risk. Mr. Adams’s directive, building on that more expansive wording, says that grounds for hospitalization could include “unawareness or delusional misapprehension of surroundings or unawareness or delusional misapprehension of physical condition or health.”
The motion seeking the restraining order disputes the hypothetical examples Mr. Adams offered of people who would be covered by the new policy. The mayor said the plan would target “the shadow boxer on the street corner in Midtown, mumbling to himself as he jabs at an invisible adversary,” among other examples.
That depiction, the motion says, “does not describe someone who is unable to care for their basic needs, let alone someone who meets the standard of serious danger.”
It added that the city’s plan “is bereft of details as to how an officer may in fact determine whether Mayor Adams’s shadow boxer is unable to take care of his basic needs or is merely exercising.”