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Testimony on Oversight of City Agencies to Address Serious Mental Illness

By: Beth Haroules Director of Disability Justice Litigation, Legal Department

New York City’s public mental health services are dysfunctional — from policies to procedures to programs to facilities — and the system’s negative impact on Black and Brown communities is deeply entrenched.

In New York City, police are the first to respond to the scene of someone in a mental health crisis, and many transport individuals to an emergency room, jail, or psychiatric hospital. But police are not mental health counselors or social workers; they lack the comprehensive training and skills needed to provide the safe and appropriate response to those in distress. Moreover, the presence of armed police officers too frequently escalates crisis situations. In worst-case scenarios, officers use force in response to a person in crisis, resulting in unnecessary and unjust serious bodily injury and death to those who simply need the care and support of trained health professionals.

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