“There is no question that our city is in the midst of a mental health crisis fueled by the pandemic’s impact on our collective health and by the disruption of access to mental health care and services. The pandemic exacerbated existing challenges created by decades of disinvestment from mental health infrastructure. Our city needs a robust response to this crisis, but how we respond matters greatly. We have many questions and need to see more concrete details related to the mayor’s announcement. The vague and broad definitions surrounding mental illness, and the delegated authority to non-mental health professionals for involuntary removal and admission raise serious concerns. The way this new policy will be implemented and the agencies and individuals being tasked with this response need to be more carefully considered, and the Council will continue playing a strong oversight role.

“As a city, we must be careful about unduly relying on involuntary commitment and short-term responses that can be counterproductive to achieving an overall healthier and safer New York City. For too long, we have seen mental health issues funneled into a criminal justice system that may provide a cosmetic response, but ultimately worsens underlying conditions instead of offering sustainable treatment and recovery.

“The City is in dire need of deeper commitments to effective evidence- and health-based solutions that provide sustained preventative and long-term care. The Council is prepared to play a constructive role in advancing holistic solutions to fill structural gaps in care, which the mayor’s announcement appears to lack. The solutions our city needs to be advancing include improving access to effective mental health diversion programs and supportive housing. There are also key efforts and programs initiated by the State that should be supported with deeper investments, planning, and implementation. Governor Hochul’s increase to Medicaid reimbursement rates to restore psychiatric beds was a major step that our partners in the federal government still must approve to ensure we have the infrastructure needed during this crisis. The City also has a responsibility to ensure the effective operationalization of the array of crisis response efforts that have either been preliminary funded or have underperformed. We must work together with all stakeholders to increase access to holistic preventative, responsive, and long-term services and treatment for those who need it most.”