Compassion First: A New Approach to Mental Healthcare in Manhattan

  • End the use of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is torture. In a previous policy paper we stated that we would end the practice of solitary confinement for Manhattan pre-trial defendants.⁸³ We wholeheartedly oppose the use of solitary confinement and support the passage of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act.⁸⁴ We will continue to urge Mayor de Blasio, the Board of Corrections, and the City Council to eliminate the use of solitary confinement in city jails.⁸⁵
  • Enact Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ emergency mental health response recommendations. It has been a year since the Public Advocate released his report “Improving New York City’s Response to Individuals in Mental Health Crisis” which focuses on reforming the City and NYPD’s responses when interacting with individuals suffering from mental illness.⁸⁶ As we transition to a solution that fully removes the NYPD from responding to mental health crises, we must continue training and de-escalation for police officers.⁸⁷
  • Provide Medicaid services to incarcerated people leaving prison. It is imperative to provide continuous healthcare for people coming home, which means remaining on Medicaid during and after incarceration. This would also allow for continued therapy and other health services that benefit re-entering individuals. We support Governor Cuomo’s directive for the Department of Health to apply for a waiver amendment which would allow certain individuals who are currently incarcerated to be provided Medicaid and Medicare services 30 days prior to their release so as to not avoid a lapse in health services.⁸⁸ However, as this request has been denied by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services,⁸⁹ we urge the New York Congressional Delegation to get behind H.R. 1329, the Medicaid Reentry Act, sponsored by Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Turner (R-OH) and push Congress to move this through committee to a full House vote.⁹⁰
  • Stop the criminalization and policing of mental health. This includes supporting legislation involving pretrial mental health and substance abuse evaluations, changing the definition of serious mental illness in corrections law to match that of the mental hygiene law in relation to inmates, and prohibiting health professionals from engaging in torture or other harmful treatment of incarcerated individuals.⁹¹⁹²⁹³
  • Medicare For All. The New York Health Act, sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera, covers all essential healthcare, including mental health treatment and support.⁹⁴ These services have always been imperative for all New Yorkers to have free and easy access to but have become increasingly important over the last several months.
  • Enact a Homes Guarantee. We believe in a #NYHomesGuarantee and the reforms that activists such as VOCAL’s Home for Everyone New Yorker coalition and the Housing Justice For All campaign led by the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance are fighting for.⁹⁵⁹⁶ When people with mental health issues are detained, they frequently lose their housing while incarcerated. Additionally, housing instability is one of the largest obstacles for folks who struggle with mental health needs and there is absolutely no reason that New York State cannot find a resolution to solve this issue.

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Criminal justice advocate. Democratic Candidate For Manhattan District Attorney.

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Janos Marton

Janos Marton

Criminal justice advocate. Democratic Candidate For Manhattan District Attorney.