New York to start forced hospitalisation of mentally ill homeless people

New York City has some 50,000 people living in the street, in the subway and in shelters. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK - New York will start involuntarily hospitalising mentally ill people who live in the street or on the subway, Mayor Eric Adams said on Tuesday in a new push to fight growing crime.

“If severe mental illness is causing someone to be unsheltered and a danger to themselves, we have a moral obligation to help them get the treatment and care they need,” said Mr Adams, a moderate Democrat and former police officer who is making the battle against violent crime the centrepiece of his work running America’s largest city.

In 2023, the state legislature and executive branch will consider a Bill allowing police, health care professionals and social workers to intervene and seek to hospitalise, by force if necessary, homeless people deemed to have psychiatric problems.

“A common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent, suicidal or presenting a risk of imminent harm,” said Mr Adams.

“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,” he added.

After taking office in January, Mr Adams quickly pledged to remove the many homeless people who live in the city’s vast subway system.

This came after a young Asian-American woman was pushed to her death in front of an oncoming train by a man with mental health issues who was known to police and hospital officials.

New York City has an estimated 50,000 homeless people.

Crime rose in New York in 2021 as the pandemic started to ease, and people’s sense of not being safe on the streets grew in 2022 in some areas of the city after a number of shooting and stabbing deaths.

A total of 391 people have been killed in New York as of Nov 27, compared to 440 in all of 2021, according to New York Police Department statistics that are updated weekly. AFP

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