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EDITORIAL: The definition of insanity: Mayor de Blasio must stop doing the same thing over and over again with respect to the seriously mentally ill

The New York Daily News - 11/11/2019

Nov. 11--Today marks 37 days since four homeless men were murdered on the streets of Chinatown by a troubled young man whose descent into apparent mental illness was no secret to those who knew him. Today also marks 30 days since Mayor de Blasio, in the murders' wake, announced a 30-day review of how well the city is helping ensure the most mentally troubled New Yorkers get treatment, before paranoid schizophrenia or other serious ailments make them dangerous to themselves and others.

City Hall's findings from the review aren't public yet, but here's what we hope they recommend for a city where troubled individuals are far too frequently endangering others:

First, direct more aid from the city's $850 million mental health initiative ThriveNYC to groups of psychiatric professionals called Assertive Community Treatment teams. Those teams, which deliver assistance to people who otherwise fall through the system's massive cracks, need more psychiatrists, less red tape and better communication with other city agencies, according to an eye-opening 2017 internal city Health Department report obtained by the Daily News.

Second, more use of Kendra's Law, which for two decades has let judges mandate outpatient treatment for mentally ill individuals threatening violence to themselves or others. The number of people under Kendra's Law supervision dropped 10% citywide last year. Why?

Forcing people into treatment is difficult by design, to preserve civil liberties. But tools like ACT and Kendra's Law exist to fill in the gaps between civil rights and the duty of care we have to those too sick to know they need help.

The nature of the some serious mental illnesses, unlike physical diseases, is that people worst afflicted can't see how unwell they are. Outside help is needed. Deliver it.


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