A 24/7 city hotline to help New York City police officers determine whether to force someone to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, a resource launched by Mayor Eric Adams as he sought to involuntarily hospitalize people unable to meet their basic needs, has not been called by anyone since its launch on Jan. 31. Adams announced the hotline last November alongside the rollout of his controversial involuntary removals directive, calling it a tool to guide police officers who encounter someone in crisis and are unsure whether it is appropriate to force the person to a hospital. The hotline is staffed by 30 trained psychiatrists, social workers, and other medical professionals, Politico reports. The hotline raises questions about how police officers are using their judgment to implement Adams’ directive and further illustrates the unilateral discretion the NYPD has to send someone to a hospital forcibly, a decision that many civil rights advocates argue should be left solely to health care professionals. Adams in a Nov. 29 address announcing the directive said, “The hotline will allow an officer to describe what they are seeing to a clinical professional, or even use video calling, to get an expert opinion on what options may be available.”
A City Hall spokesperson noted that the use of the hotline is optional for NYPD officers, saying, “This administration is doing everything it can to help those with serious mental illness who may be a danger to themselves and our efforts are showing positive results. Over 90 percent of patrol, housing, and transit officers have received training to best support this population, and the support line is just one additional tool for officers who may want to use it in the field." A representative of Health + Hospitals, which is staffing the hotline, said the health system has collaborated with the police department on several efforts to promote the support line, including a flier for NYPD precincts and an internal memo distributed to all officers. Announcing the directive, Adams said he was “blown away at their lack of clarity” when he spoke to NYPD officers about involuntary removals of people with a mental illness. The hotline was meant to provide that clarity to officers, particularly in situations that are “in the grey,” according to a Health + Hospitals presentation.