NEW YORK—Following the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been an outspoken advocate of tougher gun laws. Realizing gun laws are not the only thing needed to keep New York City protected, the mayor is now focusing his attention at helping mental illness, especially those in the city’s court system.
During his weekly Sunday radio address, the mayor announced the creation of Court-Based Intervention and Resource Teams. These teams, to be set up in each borough, will use a state-of-the-art assessment tool to determine the defendant’s mental health care needs, risk of flight, and risk of re-offense, so that those needs can be taken into consideration by the judicial system.
“If more New Yorkers who need mental health care and community support can be helped to get their lives on track when they’ve run afoul of the law, we will all be better off,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement. “No one needs to be reminded any more of just how important it is to get this group of people the care they need.”
If more New Yorkers who need mental health care and community support can be helped to get their lives on track when they’ve run afoul of the law, we will all be better off.
—Mayor Michael Bloomberg
The idea behind the program is to help, rather than lock-up, mentally ill patients. Those defendants deemed to be mentally ill by the assessment, but do not pose a substantial risk of re-arrest or failure to appear, will be recommended for release to community-based supervision while their cases are pending in court.
If a mentally ill defendant does not pose a substantial risk of being re-arrested, but poses a high risk of not appearing in court, the defendant will be recommended for alternatives to jail where mental health care can be provided.
“With the creation of these teams, court officials in New York City will receive the information they need to make better decisions about custody and assignment to community-based programs,” said Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt in a statement. “New York City is poised to set a new standard for providing resources to support those with mental health issues in large metropolitan areas.”
According to NYC data, an average of 36 percent of inmates have some level of mental illness, an increase from 25 percent in 2005. For young adults, the number is even higher, with 42 percent being diagnosed.
Those with mental illness typically stay an average of 112 days, compared to only 60 days for those without mental illness.
While the details of the assessment tools have not yet been unveiled, the program is expected to begin at the start of the year and serve 3,000 clients annually.
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