A legal challenge has been filed against New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to increase NYC’s power to take New Yorkers with mental illness into custody and have them psychiatrically examined and possibly committed. 

Visit streaming.thesource.com for more information

The challenge has been brought as part of an existing class action lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. The plaintiffs seek to halt Adams’ directive, claiming that it unlawfully broadens the definition of who can be taken into custody and committed by the police and violates various laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

On November 29, Adams announced that he had ordered several city agencies, including the NYPD and MTA Police, to update their policies and begin training to start “removing” people who appear mentally ill and are unable to meet basic needs, even if they do not appear dangerous.


The plan centers in large part around Adams’ interpretation of New York’s mental hygiene law, which allows police to take someone into custody for a psychiatric evaluation if they “appear” mentally ill and are acting in a manner likely to result in harm to themselves or others.

Adams’ current initiative would allow the police to arrest individuals and force them into a psychiatric evaluation merely because they show an “inability to meet basic needs.” This interpretation of the law assumes that a person’s inability to meet their basic needs will likely result in “serious harm” to themselves. For example, a failure to dress appropriately for the weather could fall under the Mayor’s interpretation, which could easily result from extreme poverty and lack of access to resources rather than an indicator of mental illness.

Adams claims it is a “persistent myth” that the law requires an imminent risk of harm to take a person into custody. However, the law requires “threats of self harm” and other conduct demonstrating that the person is dangerous to himself or others. It does not define irresponsibility or lack of access as conditions that allow the arrest and possible committal. 

Adams’ directive has been criticized because it is intended to make a politically opportunistic show of force in ridding the streets and subways of “undesirables.” It is very likely to meet with additional legal challenges. Still, it will do little to improve situations for mentally ill New Yorkers and is expected to be abused and carried out ineffectively and unfairly. Adams has not done anything to address this criticism, instead insisting that his directive be carried out immediately without putting proper training and procedures in place.