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Civil-Rights Groups Ask Court To Block Policy On Police, Mental Cases

Civil-rights groups are asking a court to block New York City’s new policy to hospitalize homeless people who are severely mentally ill. Mayor Eric Adams announced the initiative last week, saying it was designed to address what he called a “mental health crisis” among the homeless population. The policy, which comes amid concerns about safety and disorder, allows for the involuntary removal of people to hospitals if they appear to be a danger to themselves. In a motion filed Thursday in federal court, a coalition of civil-rights groups said the initiative is unconstitutional and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, reports the Wall Street Journal. The policy would lower the standard for involuntary detentions and hospitalizations, and lets police officers with “little to no experience” with people with mental disabilities decide whether to forcibly, and perhaps violently, detain individuals, the groups said.

The new motion is part of a class-action lawsuit, filed a year ago over the role the police department plays in responding to people with actual or perceived mental disabilities. “New York City’s reliance on the police as first responders when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis has already resulted in police killings of too many people, the majority of whom are Black or other people of color,” said Marinda van Dalen of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit. Adams, a former police officer, has emphasized his commitment to public safety and the transit system has been a particular point of focus. New York City’s subway system in 2021 recorded its highest total of assaults and murders in years. The new plan allows city agencies—such as the fire, police and health department—and contractors to evaluate and provide care to homeless people on subways and the streets who are deemed to be in a “psychiatric crisis.”

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