New York Mayor Eric Adams is the latest big city Democrat to call for the reinstatement of a policy deemed cruel and unconstitutional.
In response to the death of a mentally distressed man on the New York subway, Adams is embracing a solution once considered a more extreme conservative position: involuntary commitment to psychiatric treatment facilities.
“It is time to build a new consensus around what can and must be done for those living with serious mental illness and to take meaningful action despite resistance and pushback from those who misconstrue our intentions,” Adams said during a press conference about Jordan Neely, who was subdued by fellow passengers before dying in custody.
“I want to say upfront that there were many people who tried to help Jordan get the support he needed,” Adams continued. “But the tragic reality of severe mental illness is that some who suffer from it are at times unaware of their own need for care.”
Neely was reportedly well-known to New York’s homeless service providers and topped an internal list of those most in need of intervention.
However, the mayor’s support for involuntary commitment was met with immediate backlash from groups like the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“In the name of Jordan Neely, Mayor Adams is again responding to homelessness and unmet mental health need with the failed approaches of force and coercion,” said Donna Lieberman, director of the NYCLU.
Involuntary Commitment Trends in Blue Cities
Adams isn’t the only Democrat leader throwing support behind what modern day governments call “civil commitments”. to
Among the most notable, California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed framework to involuntarily commit people with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders last year.
The proposal, called the Care Act, was passed with almost unanimous support in the state Legislature and will be implemented next year.
Democrat Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, followed suit by pressuring the Oregon Legislature to lower the threshold for civil commitment, which is currently limited to those who are a danger to themselves or others or are unable to provide for their own basic needs.
Still, not all Democrats are on board. New York City Councilmember Diana Ayala, who has spoken about involuntarily hospitalizing her schizophrenic brother, says she understands but rejects the premise of forced hospitalization.
“You can’t hold people in a clinical setting for too long. Once you let them out onto the street, there’s no follow up, there’s no care available. So what happens then?”