Holden applauds Mayor Adams for creating mental illness initiative

Councilman Robert Holden at the rally. (Photo by Dean Moses)

Queens Council Member Robert Holden released a statement Tuesday, Nov. 29, applauding New York City Mayor Eric Adams for creating a new initiative meant to help New York City residents suffering from severe mental illnesses. In addition to praising the mayor, Holden also proposed three pieces of legislation meant to complement the initiative.

Under this new initiative, city workers are advised to take people experiencing psychiatric issues to the hospital so they can be evaluated. Even those who refuse voluntary assistance must be sent to the hospital for evaluation.

Police will also receive enhanced training to intervene to learn new engagement strategies. Officers will be paired with special intervention team members to assist in taking these individuals to the hospitals for care. A new phone hotline will also be launched, guiding police officers who encounter individuals experiencing crises.

“The city is in the midst of a major mental health crisis that demands an urgent response by city and state government,” Holden said. “For several years, I advocated for the increased use of assisted outpatient treatment programs, otherwise known as Kendra’s Law. There are ticking time bombs — who are a threat to themselves or others — riding our subways and walking our streets. I applaud Mayor Eric Adams for understanding the severity of this problem and his courage in tackling it head-on. Serious mental illness, if left untreated, will only get worse. Let’s get these New Yorkers the help they desperately need and deserve and make our streets and subways safer for all.”

Holden’s first proposed legislation, Intro 793, would require the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to report on how often city agencies and hospitals submit referrals for assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) under Kendra’s Law. This would include the number of petitions filed for such referrals and the number of resulting court orders.

The second bill, Reso 88, calls upon the passage by Congress and signage by President Biden to fully repeal the Institutions for Mental Diseases Exclusion from the Social Security Act. According to the resolution, this would allow Medicaid funding to be used by the states towards mental health and substance use disorder treatment services for adult Medicaid beneficiaries at Institutions for Mental Diseases. Such an exclusion would make it more difficult for people with mental illnesses to be committed by medical providers. A complete repeal extending to all Medicaid beneficiaries and removing any inpatient-day limitations could also allow for better outcomes and treatment for adults living with acute and chronic serious mental illness.

The third and final resolution, Reso 155, calls for the passage of the bill by the New York state Legislature and signage by Gov. Kathy Hochul that adds a gravely disabled standard to the civil commitment law. This should then make committing individuals who cannot provide themselves with basic personal needs such as food, clothing or shelter much easier. New York is one of four states in the country, including Washington D.C., that does not incorporate a grave disability standard for its civil commitment of those with mental illness.