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Behavioral health care, more commonly known as psychiatric care, has been a longstanding and complex issue, especially for marginalized New Yorkers. Healthcare policy addressing and caring for people diagnosed with a serious mental illness is fundamental to basic human rights; at the same time, it is a nuanced matter. Policies surrounding economic issues of poverty and housing instability are inextricably linked to social issues of mental and physical healthcare.
Healthcare policy and the experience of homelessness are closely linked for two reasons: first, the high cost of healthcare contributes to poverty for many Americans; and second, the poor and the aging are the most likely to suffer from illness and high medical expenses (Martin, 2015). This paper will consider the intersectional risk for unhoused New York City residents with a serious mental illness in light of Mayor Eric Adams’ recent directive for Mental Health Involuntary Removals. This new directive enables authorities to forcibly transport unhoused New Yorkers to hospitals to remove them from public areas. Although the current mayoral administration frames this as a moral obligation to act on behalf of New Yorkers with a serious mental illness, it is far from an effort to ensure that everyone has housing and receives basic healthcare. Adams’ misguided policy is a veiled attempt to make the city appear safer while doing little to assist those who are suffering and fails to address interventions for the real issue at hand: housing.
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