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Sanity in sight: Mayor Adams enlists Albany to improve mental health services for those with serious psychological problems

The New York Daily News - 11/30/2022

It’s not our collective imagination: Large numbers of deeply unstable New Yorkers are inhabiting the streets and subways. A small fraction of those beset with psychosis — Simon Martial, Peter Zisopoulos, Alexander Wright and Frank James come to mind — present a danger to others.

Chronically, such individuals fall through gaping cracks in the mental health infrastructure. Police and the jails remain frontline responders to their complex conditions, which frequently include a symptom called anosognosia, which means they are unaware of their own illness and therefore uninterested in seeking treatment.

At long last, after glaring failures by Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray and adjustments in fits and starts by Mayor Adams, the city points toward a better way. It’ll depend in no small part on finding willing partners in Albany. We’re looking at you, Gov. Hochul.

Adams Tuesday proposed a far more robust approach to getting people with serious mental illness the treatment they need. We’re proud that what kickstarted the push was a January op-ed by policy expert Brian Stettin in these pages. Upon reading the piece, Adams brought Stettin on staff at City Hall — and began developing a more proactive approach to helping people in the throes of serious psychological distress.

Top of the list is a state legislative push to make clear that a person requires inpatient care when a mental condition prevents them from meeting their own basic needs; to require hospitals to consider a number of factors before discharging people to prevent them from simply cycling through from street to hospital and back; and to require providers to tell nonprofit groups when their clients are being released, so a safety net is waiting to catch them.

Once a patient is set for discharge, Adams wants hospitals to have to screen him to see if he qualifies for Kendra’s Law, which mandates outpatient treatment plans to those with serious mental illness who are at risk of harming themselves and others.

Amen. This may appear to be an intractable problem, but progress is within reach. Don’t fail the suffering and the city yet again.

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