New York City Mayor Eric Adams is trying to make it easier for people who appear to have mental illness to be forcibly taken to the hospital. His new policy, announced last week, directs police officers and street outreach workers to transport someone to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation if they appear to be unable to meet their own basic needs. That’s a shift from the previous standard, which indicated that someone had to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Ayesha Rascoe- NPR- December 4

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the situation with allegedly mentally ill people on the streets of NYC has reached new levels. I have lived and/or worked in the city since 1986. From 1986 to 2021 I have felt scared of an alleged mentally ill person about three times. For the past year or so, that level has more than tripled, with an average of once a month I feel threatened or I see someone else I feel is in danger.

But what do we think about involuntary trip to the psych ward for evaluation?

Does it go against our personal freedoms? Does someone have the right to forcibly take someone off the street because they are acting in a manner which appears off?

Is this a gateway for the ACLU to get involved?

Do we want police and outreach workers getting involved in this?

While you’re thinking about that…

On Tuesday this week, I was on a bus at about 2pm. When I got on the bus on 81st street, I saw someone sleeping on the front seats, but this is a pretty normal occurrence. I sat down and took out my ereader.

As soon as the bus moved, the sleeper started making noise and saying things. The woman sitting next to me indicated that this had been happening for about twenty blocks. The sleeper then started walking around the bus making noise and vaguely threatening gestures. The woman next to me began a conversation, because frankly, we were all a bit on edge.

A block into the ride the sleeper stood right behind me and screamed at me.

By the next block, as we approached 75th street (the bus had gone a total of 6 blocks) the sleeper stood behind a young woman and appeared to start taking off his pants.

This is when everyone started screaming that the driver had to get this guy off the bus.

At the stop, we all got off the bus. And so did the sleeper. We all jumped back on when he was off, but by then the driver had filed an incident report and couldn’t finish the route.


I ask…

What do you think should be done?

One person I know, who is adamantly opposed to the idea of forcibly removing people, said that the answer to the problem is to give transit workers more time off. I think thoughts like this are sort of missing the point…

How do we treat and protect all people?

Is there a fair way to handle this situation with few people getting hurt or traumatized?

I know some of you are shaking your heads, glad that you don’t live in an urban environment, but these problems do exist. They do need to be solved. This can’t be something that people ignore.

If someone appears to be mentally unstable, what do we do?

41 thoughts on “Anything Can Happen Friday: Involuntarily Removed

  1. As much of a freedom fanatic as I am, I still believe that when people need help sometimes they need to be forced . However , the laws must be very clear about who, how and for how long . The REAL problem, my friend, is that effective drug and mental health treatment is not available for most people. They were supposed to be trying to end abuse of patients, but they really just don’t want to pay for it. But back to your specific topic, yes, people should be taken off the streets and buses to protect the public, but then what ? Not jail or warehousing . And will they address the causes of so much mental illness? I doubt it .

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Sorry, but this kind of story happens all too often and frankly makes me glad I left The City when I did. The answer? There are dozens, most valid but it seems that we would rather just skate around the problem. I just don’t know, should you remove someone from the streets because he may be a danger to himself, or wait until he actually does some harm to himself. Do we remove someone who is threatening or wait until someone gets hurt, or worse. We see so many people, sick, injured and challenged who make the streets their home. Where do they belong and are massive institutions the best answer for them.
    I think Adams may be on the right track here but I’m sure he will be challenged by the ACLU and the like. Streets, subway grates and stations, cardboard boxes and such were never meant to be a home.
    As far as the bus driver,mI think he handled it by sending a report. That is all he can do. To expect more only opens him up for all sorts of problems. He is trained to drive a bus, not an easy job in a crowded city. You can’t expect him to be able to handle the situation or the person to whom you were exposed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Completely agree. I know it’s a slippery slope, but just because at that moment someone doesn’t pose a threat doesn’t mean that ten minutes later they won’t be a threat. The aclu could get out there and try to solve the problem at the grass roots level though…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, they could. But that is not their history.
        But you raise another good topic for discussion. You know. When is a danger real or imagined. Is it subjective?
        I’ll say it again though, you are very smart.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Excellent point. We have a guy who threatened to blow up his house and his mother about a year ago. Police came, took weapons away form him, mom refused to press charges. He was ranting and raving and in his rants he said he wanted to be the next mass shooter. About a month age he walked into a night club, shot and killed 5 people. Granted he was not a crazy guy on the street. he was just a crazy guy. Like you said, how do we know who is a real danger and who is not. Then there is the whole how to we monitor/manage the would be dangerous ones.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The debate between individual rights versus the collective safety of a community… I know that people who are showing signs of a mental health crisis here have been taken from the scene, held- usually in a jail cell for hours/days/months due to lack of mental health professional staffing and ultimately are simply released because under the law they cannot be held any longer without evaluation. We are all too familiar with the faces and names of many of these individuals in our local news stories who are in and out of this process numerous times. Everyone has ideas and solutions. Just as many have their own opinions and nothing is accomplished. What do we do? How do we answer that question when each part of the system depends upon another to function as intended and they don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think we all acknowledge that what’s in place, no matter who is running the show, doesn’t work. Our systems are structured around historical models that often don’t make sense for society today. When someone tries to innovate it goes nowhere. There is a major fear within our standing system of governance to try different ideas, which of course cost money to accomplish, which means taxpayer dollars to implement, which sadly means perpetuating an outdated status quo where nothing will change. We have however perfected the art of going around and around in endless circles of pervasive inactivity.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think if someone is a danger to themselves or others, they can be taken in for an evaluation. But then what? They’d be released within hours or days. When I lived downtown Palm Springs I had a homeless man who stalked us, left us threatening notes, and said he bought our house and was going to physically remove us. We’d call the police for trespassing — he was sleeping in our yard. He’d get out overnight and come back. We were shocked to learn he wasn’t getting any mental health care in jail.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The main issue is that we don’t have enough mental health funding. When I was at the jail we had so many people who should have been in mental health facilities but were in jail instead. Even when sent to the facility for evaluation, most of them were sent back to us. Most jails don’t have the care they need to help them and they just get released with no treatment

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This one’s a tough one, because I can sympathize with both sides of the equation.

    That said, there was a stabbing in our transit system just yesterday. Two women stabbed in a station. Sadly, one has died of her injuries. The subway stop in question is in my neighbourhood. This is why I insist on picking up my daughter to and from her work/excursions, etc., as much as possible.

    I remember all the garbage I was subjected to when I used to take transit for high school and later on, for work. Drunk people, mentally ill people, men masturbating…you name it.

    Did you ever find yourself scoping out the crowd to see if there’s a big or strong man on board, in case there’s an episode? I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This could be a slippery slope. When do people forfeit their individual rights to live as they please? A homeless person on the street cannot be forced to pay for shelter yet so many are in need of mental health services. Mental health services cost money so who would pay for those services for someone who cannot? One could argue that someone with diminished capacity is not capable of making decisions but then we’re back to square one on who takes responsibility for getting them care? Prisons are not generally equipped to handle these issues, yet if someone is acting in a threatening manner, what other recourse is there if lives are in danger? You can’t make someone get help they don’t want…..yet, if they aren’t able to make a rational decision, should there be a way? Now, my brain hurts….again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the conundrum…you can’t make someone do something even if it’s the correct course of action to give that person a better life. It’s all tied up in knots


  8. This will continue and worsen until a political economy, is designed and enlisted to better, in a promote the general welfare way, allowed to buy in and try to fix problems like this.

    Our faith… make that fetish… of all things, at all times, bottom-line capitalism…is bankrupting our future. And no, a political economy is neither commie, or EU socialism.

    Markets can’t master a problem of this nature. There is no cost plus to the solution. It’s an investment, but the return can not be measured in shares of dollars and cents. Not in any realistic and responsible fiduciary manner.

    What price fear? What price failure, or even social collapse?

    I’m old. So guys..good luck with all this. Peace.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Faith is a factor as evidenced by the dollar sign codicil “in God We Trust,” but the providential nature of free will suggest a fix of the temporal nitty gritty is left up to us. Regards.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Yank ’em off the street if there’s even a slight chance they’re acting erratically or pose a danger to others. There are simply too many terrible incidents these days not to take this sort of thing very seriously. The people who end up victims had their rights taken away without their consent, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think when you’re dealing with a mental health issue it is difficult to understand that you need help. Then if you do, it’s difficult to get help, especially if you do not have insurance. I think we need to offer free mental health services, free medications, and I’m not against forcing someone to submit to an evaluation if they have displayed aggressive or dangerous behavior. When they are stabilized it will be their job to stay on the medication, show up to work if they are issued a job, and observe shelter rules. I don’t understand why we let people live on the streets, defecate on the sidewalk, do drugs and leave needles on the sidewalk. All people should be respected and I use the sidewalks too. Hugs, C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Cheryl – As a fellow Californian (me from the south, you from the north), you might be aware of what my mom’s boyfriend liked to kvetch about. Reagan closed the state mental hospitals, so all the crazies ended up on the streets and then in the prisons. I saw an interview with the new mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass, discussing the homeless issue and how she hopes to resolve it. I’ll be looking on with interest from afar to see how she does.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. That is horrible and the one thing that gets me a little frightened! We should feel secure while trying to go from point A to B. I bet he wouldn’t have taken or tried to take his pants down if she were a man. But that’s another conversation.

    I think it’s in everyones best interest to have authorities to get involved!

    Liked by 1 person

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