How many involuntary hospital trips are happening under Adams? City Council wants transparency

New York City Councilmembers are pushing for more information about Mayor Eric Adams’s contentious initiative to make it easier to take people to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation against their will.

A bill that was recently introduced in the Council would require the city to report annual data on these involuntary hospital transports – including how frequently 911 calls for mental health concerns result in someone being taken to the hospital without their consent. Despite how much Adams hyped up the initiative last year, and the amount of concern it has generated from some in the mental health community, early figures suggest the program did not result in a higher volume of involuntary transports in its first few months. That limited data only came out as the result of an oversight hearing the City Council held last month.

This is just one piece of the mental health plan City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams presented at City Hall this morning, along with Councilmember Linda Lee, who chairs the committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction.

“The city has over-relied on emergency and crisis responses,” Speaker Adams said at the press conference. “Our purely reactive approach to mental health must end.”

The council’s roadmap focuses on increasing access to community-based services, boosting the mental health workforce, minimizing interactions between people with mental illness and the criminal justice system and raising awareness about existing resources. It includes legislation introduced by various council members, as well as proposals they will push for in the upcoming city budget, which is due June 30.

Lee and Adams also acknowledged that many of the issues with the mental health system require policy changes at the state or federal levels, and said they would advocate for those reforms as well.

The City Council plan is aligned with many of the community-based mental health initiatives Mayor Adams announced last month, although in some cases city councilmembers are pushing for more concrete commitments and guidelines than the mayor provided as to how mental health dollars will be invested.

For instance, Adams said in March he wanted to allocate $7 million over four years to “significantly increase” the capacity of the city’s “clubhouses,” – facilities that provide daily activities and services along with a social outlet for people with serious mental illnesses. That proposal is similar to proposed legislation by Councilmembers Kevin Riley and Lee that would require the city to open new mental health “community centers” in at least five high-need areas.

Councilmember Keith Powers also introduced legislation that would require the city to establish at least two crisis respite centers in each borough, where people experiencing a mental health crisis can go instead of the emergency room to get support voluntarily in a less restrictive setting. There are currently just four of these centers operating citywide – half as many as there were in 2019.

“They’ve got to be close to where people live,” Powers said at the press conference. “I think two [in each borough] may not even be enough, but two is a good start.”

In addition to proposing laws, the City Council is also pushing for more mental health funding in the fiscal year 2024 budget. The plan advocates for an additional $45 million for supportive housing, which comes with social services, and an additional $28 million for school-based mental health services. That would allow the city to move toward meeting the ratio of one social worker per 250 students recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists, according to the speaker’s plan. Councilmembers will have to negotiate these budget proposals with the mayor.

Some of the City Council’s recommendations center around promoting existing services. Councilmember Erik Bottcher has introduced legislation requiring the Adams administration to make people aware of the mental health care they can receive through NYC Care, a program connecting undocumented immigrants without health insurance to services at NYC Health + Hospitals.

The City Council is taking up several legislative proposals around mental health at a meeting on May 4. Speaker Adams said at the press conference that she anticipated the mental health roadmap would be a “long-term, continuously evolving pathway” to improve mental health in the city.

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