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MN homelessness advocates react to NYC directive to hospitalize mentally ill involuntarily

Outreach teams in the Twin Cities said the new NYC rule is a double-edged sword.

MINNEAPOLIS — New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced city officials can now hospitalize people "who pose a risk of harm to themselves even if they are not an imminent threat to the public."

Outreach teams in the Twin Cities said the new NYC rule is a double-edged sword.

Officials in New York said the city would start training first responders immediately to "ensure compassionate care."

Jill Wiedemann-West is the CEO of People Incorporated. They connect homeless individuals in Minneapolis and Saint Paul with a number of resources including mental health treatment.

“I think it's a very serious thing when we take away someone's liberty and say, 'I'm going to do something with you, to you, against your will,'” said Wiedemann-West. “That said, you know, mental illness has a significant effect on people's ability to, in many cases, know what's best for them.”

According to the 2018 Minnesota Homeless Study by the Wilder Foundation, 64% of homeless adults have a serious mental illness.

“Unless there is truly that imminent danger, it's very hard to make that call,” said Wiedemann-West. “And in Minnesota, in all honesty, the bar for transportation against someone's will is quite significant.”

So outreach teams said they can't take people to a shelter or a hospital without their consent.

“We work with people for years before they have a trusting relationship with their outreach worker,” said Wiedemann-West. “So choosing to take away their liberty, I think is a big deal.”

She said trust is the biggest challenge, but it's also the most important thing to have when getting someone the help they need.

"If someone doesn't want to talk to us or doesn't trust us, we're not gonna we're not going to move forward in any way that is helpful for the individual,” said Emily Bastian, vice president of Ending Homelessness for Avivo.

The organization also has outreach teams in the metro. Bastian herself has helped folks on the street connect with mental health services.

“My initial reaction was, you've got to be kidding me,” she said.

She said a good way to destroy trust is by taking someone against their will.

“People are their own caregivers,” she said “They have a right to make their own choices.”

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