After several violent incidents involving mentally ill individuals –including the murder of a New York City psychiatrist in February – New York city and state officials yesterday announced new policies designed to improve care for patients and reduce the risk of violence, reports the New York Sun. Based on recommendations from a joint state and city task force, Governor David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg outlined a series of changes within the adult mental health system and the criminal justice system, including increased information sharing between law enforcement authorities and those who care for mentally ill patients.
Within the criminal justice system, lawmakers plan to start a program that will share – when appropriate – a patient’s mental health information with law enforcement. A new, city-based “alternative-to-detention” program will assess and supervise community-based treatments for mentally ill individuals who are charged with crimes. The city’s probation department would establish a dedicated mental health unit, and more information about emotionally disturbed patients would be shared with police. Advocates for individuals with mental illness praised the new policies. “Although exceedingly rare, violence by people with mental illness generally occurs when they are untreated,” said Giselle Stolper of the Mental Health Association of New York City.