Expand Kendra’s Law to reach those in need and avert future tragedies
Four homeless New Yorkers were killed on Saturday morning. They were bludgeoned to death with a metal pole as they slept on the streets of Chinatown. The suspect, who has confessed to the crimes, is another homeless man, Randy Rodriguez Santos, just 24 years old, with at least 14 prior arrests and likely needing mental health care that he never received.
How, in a city such as New York, with multi-billion dollar budgets for mental health and homelessness programs, could such a tragedy occur? The main reason is that Mayor de Blasio and his wife have imposed a directionless mental health plan on the city that basically ignores the seriously ill in favor of improving “mental wellness” (whatever that is) in the masses.
Called Thrive NYC, it dumps money into poorly defined and often poorly run programs that gave him great talking points for his failed presidential campaign but provided little help to people with serious mental illness. Except for huffing and puffing, Speaker Corey Johnson and the rest of the City Council have let the mayor and first lady get away with it.
New York does have a program that might have prevented the tragedy, but in the last year de Blasio has cut down the number of people in it by 10%. Less than half the estimated number of people who should be in it are in it.
It’s called Kendra’s Law, and it does two things that are important: It compels seriously mentally ill individuals with a history of homelessness or incarceration to comply with treatment, and it forces the city to provide services to those who would benefit from it the most, but are usually sent to the back of the line. Almost 40% of the most seriously mentally ill in New York receive zero treatment.
DJ Jaffe is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institue, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org., and author of Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill.
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