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Event Health, Public Safety Serious Mental Illness, Policing, Crime Control

Crime and Mental Illness in New York City: Community Solutions

Thursday April 2022


Carolyn Reinach Wolf Executive Partner, Director of Mental Health Law Practice, Abrams Fensterman, LLP
Brian Stettin Policy Director, Treatment Advocacy Center
Stephen Eide Senior Fellow | Contributing Editor, City Journal @stephendeide

In New York City, public concern about untreated serious mental illness continues to run high. In February, Mayor Eric Adams launched his “Subway Safety Plan” in an attempt to reduce disorder and violence in the transit system. The rate of mental illness among city jail inmates is as disturbingly high as ever. Several notable tragedies this year have had a connection with mental illness.

The problem is not neglect. During the de Blasio years, state and local policymakers prioritized addressing the intersection of crime and mental illness. Most major criminal justice reform initiatives had a mental health justification, at least in part, and most major mental health initiatives had a criminal justice justification, at least in part. Crisis response reform, Thrive NYC, bail reform: all were meant to benefit mentally ill offenders. But both mentally ill offenders themselves and the broader public remain poorly served by the system.

This event explores two important community-based solutions to this problem: guardianship and assisted outpatient treatment. Moderator and MI senior fellow Stephen Eide—who recently published a report framing these issues for NYC's new mayor—speaks with two senior practitioners. Carolyn Reinach Wolf, director of the Mental Health Law Practice for Abrams Fensterman, LLP, is the country's only attorney with a family-focused mental healthcare practice. She recently served as president of the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association and was selected as this year's Lawyer of the Year for health care law. Brian Stettin is policy director for the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national advocacy organization working to eliminate barriers to treatment of severe mental illness. Previously, as an Assistant New York State Attorney General, he was instrumental in conceiving and drafting “Kendra’s Law,” and later served as special counsel to the New York State Commissioner of Criminal Justice Services and counsel to the Health Committee of the New York Assembly.