Thoughts On the Forced Hospitalization of the Homeless and Mentally Ill in NYC

Homelessness is one of those issues that seems both simple and difficult to explain and confront. Sometimes, it can be boiled down to a single problem. Other times, there are several threads that lead to one living on the streets.

Last week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a plan in which homeless persons who show signs of severe mental illness will be forced to go into the hospital.

On paper, this plan sounds reasonable. However, there are logistic questions that must be addressed.

  1. Do the hospitals have the beds and staff to handle this potentially large influx of patients?
  2. Will the doctors and nurses have access to the medical histories of the individuals so they can treat them properly?
  3. Who exactly will be on the teams that locate these people? Will it be clinicians and police? In case the encounter becomes dangerous, law enforcement may need to step in. Given their history, just charging in guns blazing is not the best option.
  4. Upon release from medical facilities, will these people have access to the services they need?

Obviously, the details have to be ironed out and it goes without saying that it will not all be smooth sailing in the beginning. But I have to admire Mayor Adams for trying. Something is always better than nothing.

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