Skepticism was swift and across the city, from police stations to ERs and EMS ambulances, as Mayor Adams rolled out his new plan to force the mentally ill into medical treatment.
These frontline first responders, speaking to the Daily News, were quick to question details surrounding the newly announced approach to their work, specifically citing increased responsibilities for already busy workers, potential legal issues and threats to their on-the-job safety.
“Our members are regularly assaulted as is the case now,” said Oren Barzilay, FDNY EMS Local 2507 leader. “Our concern is that this policy will only exacerbate the danger that our members face on a daily basis…The city is doing little about assaults on our members as they stand, and that has not done only get worse with bail reform.”
Sarah Dowd, a registered nurse at Kings County Hospital, had little hope for the Adams plan, dismissing the new approach as “unreasonable and something we cannot accept”. His opinion was shared by Irving Campbell, a nurse at New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital for two decades.
“People in the emergency room are waiting five, six days for a bed,” he said. “It’s good that the cops bring people in for an assessment, but what do we do after that?” That’s really the key.
Public attorney Jumaane Williams, in a three-page letter to Adams, posed the most asked questions about the change. Where, he asked, will the funding come from? What are the training plans for cops and the emergency medical service for this new mission?
And where are the beds coming from for the influx of new patients?
“In asking these questions, I hope to continue collaboration and transparency so that all … understand what the steps and processes behind the city’s mental health response look like,” he wrote.
Adams announced the new plan last Tuesday for first responders and other city employees to deal directly with the mentally ill, with the city more aggressively using state law to involuntarily place people in immediate care.
“We will find a bed for everyone,” he promised last week after Governor Hochul provided 50. “We will meet this challenge head on.”
But a Manhattan NYPD supervisor dismissed City Hall’s plan as well-intentioned but best left in the hands of trained health workers. Cops are worried about cases going to the Civil Complaints Commission or possible lawsuits related to the new interventions, he said.
“If they’re mentally ill and they’re homeless, most of the time they won’t cooperate,” said the supervisor, who asked to remain anonymous. “Where is the line? That’s what we want to know. This is a judgment call – and that will be the problem.
A city council source delivered a more pointed take, accusing the administration of “fraudulent PR” and “flimsy rhetoric in response to real questions.”
Dr. Manish Sapra, executive director of behavioral health services at Northwell Health, complained about the lack of advance warning ahead of the mayor’s November 29 announcement.
“We’re kind of caught off guard,” Sapra said. “We don’t have the capacity to suddenly increase the services available in the emergency departments for all patients who come in and provide them with psychiatric consultation.”
PBA President Patrick Lynch in a statement offered some support as well as several caveats about the role its members will be asked to play.
“We need our leaders to support us as we perform these tasks,” Lynch said. “And, above all, we need our leaders to recognize that each new responsibility is a strain on our severely understaffed, overworked and underpaid ranks.”
He called for ‘extremely clear guidance and training’ for officers now dealing with people forced to accept help.
The initiative is already underway in the subways, where the NYPD Transit Bureau began rolling out in teams with clinicians and nurses in October.
“We’re actually asking the appropriate credentialed and licensed professionals to make the decision…rather than putting the blame on the officers,” said Terri Tobin, chief of interagency operations for the NYPD.
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The department intends to take the approach above ground, she added, and the police training office is working on the new tactic with city health officials.
The mayor’s unprecedented plan received initial support from the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, Bronx Defenders and Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem.
The Legal Aid Society has changed its mind, however, and now says Adams’ plan is “illegal” and “immoral”. The Bronx Defenders also later spoke out against the plan.
But Vincent Variale, head of the FDNY EMS officers’ union, said his workers still needed police escorts when transporting the mentally ill to hospitals under the new guidelines.
“The quietest ones are the ones you have to be careful of because they can burst at any time,” he said. “And you don’t want to be alone with them in the back of an ambulance when that happens.”
A source at Brooklyn’s city-run Woodhull Hospital said the only thing certain about the plan was all the uncertainty.
” How are you ? thought the source. “I’m not really sure. It’s about seeing how it goes. »
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