A federal judge ruled Monday on Mayor Eric Adams’ request to expand the use of involuntary commitment for people with mental health crises.
Manhattan federal judge Paul Crotty has postponed a ruling on a request by attorneys and advocates for the mentally ill to impose a temporary restraining order that puts a brake on the mayor’s “involuntary removal order.” It came into action November 29.
But the judge questioned whether anyone was directly harmed by the new initiative — and whether the enforcement action was therefore premature.
“There is not one example of anyone being arrested under this initiative,” said City Hall attorney Alan Shaner.
The judge referred to the plaintiff in the case, who said 26-year-old Steven Green, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD), was recklessly arrested three times by police while responding to mental health calls. In the last few years – all before the new expansion.
“What about Mr. Green’s statement that he was afraid to go out on the street?” Crotty asked.
Greene’s most recent arrest came before Adams even ran for office in 2020, but in a sworn affidavit to stop the plan, Greene said the new initiative left him in awe.
“I was afraid to leave my apartment because of the mayor’s announcement,” he said. “Now I am in constant fear that my mental disability will result in an NYPD officer forcibly and violently arresting me and putting me in the hospital.”
He added: “My psds got worse with this ad.
New with old
During the hour-long court hearing, attorneys for mental health advocates insisted the mayor’s announcement was a new initiative, while the city attorney said it was merely an effort to educate police about the already-existing weapon.
Before Adams’ announcement last month, the city’s policy was to detain someone with a mental health crisis only if they were believed to be an immediate danger to themselves or others. Typically, that means evidence or observations that they have threatened to harm others or themselves.
Adams was expanding that to say that people who appear to be mentally ill and unable to meet their own basic needs qualify – “even if there is no recent evidence of dangerous behavior”.
The new protocol lists three examples that can trigger an involuntary removal: “severe untreated physical injuries, ignorance or misperception of the environment, or ignorance or ignorance of physical condition or health.”
Advocates for people with mental disabilities, including Community Access, New York’s National Collaborative on Mental Illness, and Real Crisis Intervention, argue that the language is too broad and could result in people being incarcerated against their will or their will. They look homeless on a cold night.
“Police officers are now protecting their mental health,” said Luna Droby of Beldoc Levin & Hoffman, the group’s attorney. “This is policing someone for being homeless. This is the police arresting someone as mentally ill.
City attorney Scheiner questioned the groups’ motivation to block the new effort, arguing that the mayor’s goal is to provide more help to those with mental disabilities who cannot provide for themselves.
“What the plaintiffs seem to want, and I find this a little perverse, is for the mentally ill to starve to death, to bleed in the streets, to walk in traffic,” he said.
The temporary stay request is part of an ongoing lawsuit filed last year by Green and others who were held against their will by police on psychiatric grounds.
It includes the Peggy Herrera case. Bright Monday at THE CITY. Herrera said her 21-year-old son, Justin Barga, called 911 for help when he was having a mental health crisis, specifically asking them to send an EMT, not the police. Anyway, several police showed up and Herrera was handcuffed and handcuffed while Baerga was beaten, handcuffed and taken to the psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital.
In asking for a temporary stay on Adams’ new guidelines, attorneys suing the city in the ongoing case warned of “police officers with little experience in dealing with individuals with intellectual disabilities who are often forced to decide whether an individual should be violent.” By force – held against their will.”
In Green’s case, regular police officers, Emergency Services Unit (ESU) officers and EMTs showed up at his Bronx apartment in May 2020. Unbeknownst to Green, the cops are responding to a 911 call that says “EDP.” [emotionally disturbed person] with a gun,” the indictment said.
When Green opened the door and walked into the hallway, an ESU police officer asked him if he was suicidal, and another police officer told him that the social worker called 911 and asked the police to check on him. An EMT on the scene then said he had to go to the hospital because of the call from the social worker he didn’t recognize.
Green refused to go to the hospital, denying suicide. When he went back into the apartment, the police followed him and eventually handcuffed him.
On the way he was strapped to a gurney and put into an ambulance. On the way to a North Central Bronx hospital, he told EMTs, “We shouldn’t go into an apartment with someone who has PTSD because it’s triggering,” the suit states.
Green was released from the hospital a few hours after his arrival, and his attorneys say this is nothing new for him. The indictment stated that he had been arrested against his will on two previous occasions.
The judge did not say when he would rule on the case.