Alexandria, VA (Dec. 2, 2022) – Schroeder Stribling, president and CEO of Mental Health America, issued the following statement today regarding the New York City mayor’s plan to involuntarily hospitalize people with mental illness:
“Mental Health America appreciates New York City Mayor Eric Adams for his heartfelt desire to help people experiencing homelessness and serious mental illness. Under his plan announced this week, the city seeks to empower its first responders, including police, to bring unhoused people in for involuntary hospitalization to reduce crime in the city. This is the wrong approach for many reasons.
Interactions between police, even well-trained officers, and people with mental illness are traumatizing for individuals when they are confronted by uniformed officers, handcuffed, and transported inside police vehicles. For people of color, these interactions are often especially traumatic and can even be deadly for the person experiencing mental illness. Mental Health America, along with other major mental health and police training organizations, has been working to lessen involvement with police, if not deflect people away from interactions with law enforcement. This plan does the opposite and will lead to even worse outcomes for the very people the plan wants to assist.
Mental Health America commends the mayor for saying that the city will increase funding to help people with mental illness who are also experiencing homelessness and use New York state dollars to increase capacity to reach people on the streets. This funding is desperately needed to increase the number of mobile outreach teams, respite and crisis receiving centers, and, most of all, supported housing. Involuntary hospitalizations ignore the problem that people voluntarily seeking services cannot access them.
While it is true that crime is up in New York City, as in many other major U.S. cities, studies show that people with mental illness are more likely to be the victim rather than the perpetrator. Mayor Adams’ proposal adds to the public’s misbeliefs about people with mental illness being violent, and it wrongly focuses on involuntary commitment – long-proven to be the wrong approach – rather than directing resources to desperately needed supported housing, community treatment, and engagement without traumatizing police interactions. Many persons with mental health conditions who become involved with law enforcement do so because of societal failures to provide them with appropriate and timely services, especially housing and mental health care.
We encourage all leaders wanting to help those with mental illness or experiencing homelessness to concentrate resources on proven assistance, such as access to adequate mental health care, community-based follow-up to care, and access to housing. Learn more about Mental Health America’s position here."
About Mental Health America
Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all. MHA’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them; with recovery as the goal. Learn more at MHAnational.org.