New York’s budget blocked by politics, spending and mental health law

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New York Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a candlelight vigil honoring Michelle Alyssa Go, victim of a subway attack, in Times Square in New York City on January 18, 2022. The Police said the man accused of pushing her to death was homeless and had a history of “emotionally disturbed dating”. New York lawmakers are meeting Thursday, April 7, to discuss last-minute disagreements over policies and spending that have delayed passage of the state budget nearly a week past the April 1 deadline, including including the potential expansion of a law for people with mental illness. AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File

New York lawmakers meet Thursday to discuss last-minute policy and spending disagreements that have delayed passage of the state budget nearly a week past the April 1 deadline, including the potential extension of a law for people with mental illness.

The remaining issues that have stymied passage of the budget range from details of an environmental clean-up program to continued debate on criminal justice reforms, such as a possible rollback of the parole act. New York surety. The Assembly and the Senate have planned to hold conferences starting Thursday around 10 a.m.

Advocacy groups representing New Yorkers with mental illness have chastised elected officials for ruling out a potential extension of a court-ordered treatment law behind the scenes with no chance of public participation.

Thousands of New York residents are treated each year under Kendra’s Law, which requires people facing serious mental illness to undergo outpatient psychiatric treatment as a condition of living in the community. Patients who do not comply risk up to 72 hours in a public facility.

New York passed the law on a trial basis in 1999, when 32-year-old Kendra Webdale was pushed in front of a subway train by a man with untreated schizophrenia. The law is due to expire on June 30 unless lawmakers grant another extension.

The push to change the law now comes in the wake of the death of another woman pushed past a subway train in January – Michelle Alyssa Go, 40, from New York, who was of Asian descent and was known to volunteer to help the homeless and other vulnerable communities. Police say the man accused of pushing her to death was homeless and had a history of “emotionally disturbed encounters”.

Details of what the latest proposal would be are unclear, but advocates and lobbyists following negotiations in Albany say they fear Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul and lawmakers may end up allowing people with mental illness to be involuntarily detained in hospitals indefinitely. under orders that could be renewed without legal process.

Ruth Lowenkron, director of the Disability Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, said she fears lawmakers are weakening due process protections under Kendra’s law and extending it to New Yorkers. -Yorkers living with a disability or homeless people.

“This overreliance on mental health criminalization and involuntary engagement creates more trauma for people with mental health,” Lowenkron said.

“The proposal in New York is grossly out of step with the law across the country,” said Ira Burnim, legal director of the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, DC.

Lowenkron and Burnim said they support extending Kendra’s law for another five years, but said lawmakers should focus on investing more money in voluntary community services.

Sen. George Borrello, a Republican from central New York who sponsored a bill to expand Kendra’s law, said he was unaware of the details of the budget negotiations and would prefer lawmakers to hold a separate debate on the bill.

But he said he was frustrated by the lawyers’ opposition.

“We need to give our healthcare professionals the ability to detain people longer so they can assess them if someone is violating” their assisted outpatient treatment order, Borrello said.

He said Go’s death has sparked calls for reform of Kendra’s law, which he says is not being used enough.

“72 hours is not enough to make sure someone is stabilized, and if you are unable to take care of yourself and provide basics like food, shelter that should be considered proof that you are a danger to yourself and others and you need to be detained for that reason,” Borrello said.

Hochul and legislative leaders have been negotiating for months over the budget, which has often served as a vehicle for passing major policy legislation over the decades. Budget talks in New York once stretched into the summer months and shortened under former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration – although last year’s budget passed on April 7.

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