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Public interest groups file emergency request to halt Mayor Eric Adams' controversial mental health plan

CBS New York 12/9/2022 Ali Bauman

NEW YORK -- Mayor Eric Adams' new plan to involuntarily hospitalize some mentally ill people living on New York City streets is facing its first legal battle.

Advocates are arguing the plan is unconstitutional.

Shannon O'Neill Fonseca was involuntarily hospitalized by NYPD officers in 2019 when her then-partner told 911 she was a danger to herself.

"Some of the PTSD that I struggle the most with right now is from my hospitalizations," she said. "When I was discharged, I did not receive any type of support, there wasn't really an aftercare plan, it was so hard for me to submit any type of documentation and no one followed up with me."

Fonseca has never been homeless herself but worries about the mayor's new policy directing police to forcibly hospitalize mentally ill homeless people who are deemed a danger to themselves or unable to meet their needs.

"I'm very, very concerned about New Yorkers with serious mental illness who may not have the resources or the community that I do," she said.

READ MORE: Opponents of Mayor Eric Adams' mental health plan say city should instead focus on reinvesting in social programs

Attorney Marinda van Dalen represents a coalition of advocates who on Thursday filed an emergency request in federal court to halt City Hall's plan.

"We believe this new policy discriminates against people with mental disabilities and will endanger their very lives," she said. "This is the most urgent type of request you can make to a court. We're saying that there's going to be irreparable injury to people if this policy isn't halted immediately."

The advocates who filed this request argue that police do not have the training to involuntarily transport mental health patients and the city's hospitals do not have the resources to receive them.

"There are not enough hospital beds today to deal with the people who are voluntarily seeking treatment, let alone the individuals who are now more vulnerable to being picked up and brought to the hospital," said Matt Kudish, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-NYC.

A City Hall spokesperson responded to the filing, saying in part, "We must break this cycle that has shuffled people experiencing homelessness back and forth between the streets and an emergency room, unconnected to care, and we must stop choosing to ignore people in need of help until they fall into serious or imminent danger."

A spokesman for the city's law department told CBS2 the mayor's plan "fully complies with federal and state law, and we look forward to making our case before the court."

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