A judge ruled that New York City’s controversial plan to allow first responders to involuntarily hospitalize homeless people with mental illnesses can proceed, according to CNN.
Under Mayor Eric Adams’ plan, which faced backlash and legal challenges shortly after it was introduced in November, first responders would have the authority to remove and involuntarily hospitalize anyone on the streets who “appears to be mentally ill” or “displays an inability to meet basic living needs.” Removal would be allowed even if the person doesn’t appear to be a danger to themselves or others.
Mental health advocates, organizations and individuals alleged that the city’s plan was too broad and violated constitutional rights, according to The New York Times. In December, a motion was filed as a part of an existing lawsuit, calling on U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the plan.
Crotty denied the motion on Monday.
These legal challenges came soon after Adams’ plan was announced, as part of an effort to address issues surrounding homelessness, mental health and crime.
According to the Coalition for the Homeless, 22,697 single adults were sleeping in the city’s shelters each night in November 2022 – a near-record since the Great Depression. Within the U.S., 20.8% of homeless people have a serious mental illness.
The city also faced a surge of attacks — some of which involved homeless people — on subways and streets in recent years. Adams previously claimed these attacks were linked to mental illnesses.
During a news conference in November, Adams said the city has a “moral obligation” to help homeless people with mental illnesses get treatment.
But the plan immediately raised concerns. Mental health and disability advocates previously told HuffPost that the plan isn’t the safest option, and that it fails to respect the autonomy of homeless people with mental illnesses. They also shared concerns about how it reflects past legislation — such as the Ugly Laws — that have historically targeted disabled and homeless people.
Mental illness, they added, can’t be detected simply by looking at someone. The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a civil rights law firm and one of the plaintiffs in the December lawsuit, said in a press release that the plan “lowers the standard” for involuntary detentions and hospitalizations to such a level that “almost anyone can be forcibly detained and hospitalized against their will.”
The firm sent a statement to CNN that said it was disappointed by the judge’s ruling this week.
“The rights of New Yorkers with mental disabilities, particularly those who are unhoused, remain imperiled by the city’s new involuntary removal policy. Our litigation challenging the city’s use of New York Police Department officers as first responders when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis continues,” the statement said, according to CNN.