Policy Platform

We are committed to achieving bold policy changes at both the city and state level. Read below to learn more about some of the policy initiatives NAMI-NYC is supporting.

COVID-19

During the COVID-19 crisis, the importance of healthcare access has never been more clear. Unfortunately mental healthcare is often excluded from COVID-19 public health response plans. NAMI-NYC strongly believes mental health care must be a key component of our city’s COVID-19 recovery plans. NAMI-NYC urges New York City’s lawmakers to protect individuals and families affected by mental illness crisis by carrying out the following recommendations relating to the COVID-19 emergency.

  • New York City must minimize disruptions to mental health services. This means that, for example, psychiatric units and other mental health facilities must remain properly staffed and have access to adequate supplies necessary to best help people living with mental illness.
  • Hospitals must not prematurely discharge patients with mental illness in an effort to clear space or reduce the need for staff.
  • New York City must increase funding to assist people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of falling into homelessness. Because people living with mental illness are more likely to face homeless, some of these funds should be allocated specifically to help people affected by mental illness as they are particularly vulnerable during this emergency.
  • Law enforcement agencies must maximize diversions from jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers by avoiding unnecessary arrests and incarcerations, such as those related to nonviolent offenses, parole violations, and immigration status.
  • Jails, prisons, and immigrant detention facilities must provide no-cost phone calls, video calls, and other forms of digital communication that can help people who are incarcerated and detained stay connected with their friends and families during this stressful and isolating time.
  • Jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers must reduce crowded living conditions by ensuring the release of incarcerated individuals who are detained over technicalities or who are eligible for early release. In order to be effective, these releases must be accompanied by the provision of services which ensure that previously-incarcerated individuals have access to adequate housing as well as to quality and affordable mental health services if needed.

Healthcare

NAMI-NYC is firmly committed to enacting policies that increase access to mental health services, and improve the quality of those services. We believe in a person-centered approach to health care to assist people and families experiencing mental illness. People living with a mental illness to access the most appropriate treatments to advance their specific recovery. Healthcare projects NAMI-NYC supports include:

New York Health Act
The New York Health Act would create a single-payer healthcare system for New York, eliminating the power of insurance companies to dictate treatment, and providing healthcare access for the uninsured as well. NAMI-NYC supports the New York Health Act, as it will provide cheaper, easier to access, mental healthcare for all New Yorkers.

Keep psychiatric hospitals open and accessible
There is currently a significant shortage of inpatient psychiatric hospital beds in the United States. The number of such beds continues to drop even as rates of mental illness are on the rise. NAMI-NYC firmly believes that inpatient psychiatric hospital beds must always be readily accessible to those with serious mental illness or who are in crisis. No one should have to forgo or delay critical mental health services because of insufficient bed availability. We urge legislators to increase funding directed towards keeping psychiatric hospitals open and accessible to all people who are in need of their services.

Criminal Justice

NAMI-NYC believes the criminal justice system is not an appropriate avenue to support people living with mental illness. We are dedicated to working with families and communities to enact policies that divert people living with a mental illness from the criminal justice system and towards recovery. Criminal Justice projects NAMI-NYC supports include:

Ending Solitary Confinement
As of fall 2017, at least 61,000 incarcerated individuals were held in solitary confinement throughout the U.S. People living with mental illness are often disproportionately subject to solitary confinement and are thus more likely to experience the adverse consequences which stem from forced isolation. NAMI-NYC stands in agreement with numerous studies and experts in staunchly denouncing the use of solitary confinement for incarcerated individuals, especially people who are living with mental illness. The devastating psychological and physical toll of prolonged enforced isolation makes solitary confinement not only a blatant violation of human rights but also a strikingly inhumane practice. For this reason, NAMI-NYC supports Bill A.2500/S.1623, also known as the HALT Bill, which limits the amount of time incarcerated individuals can spend in solitary confinement and ensures that people living with mental illness are not placed in solitary confinement.

Diversion Centers
Diversion Centers would create an alternative to arrest for people suffering from substance abuse or a mental health episode by creating “health diversion centers” where individuals can get short-term treatment until they are stable. We believe the creation of health diversion centers can be a key step in helping shift people living with a mental illness away from the criminal justice system and towards recovery. NAMI-NYC supports increased funding for these centers so they can finally open and begin their important work. We also are committed to ensuring these diversion centers emphasize treatment and recovery.

Mental Health Courts
Mental health courts were established to improve the response of the criminal justice system to individuals with serious mental illness who committed low-level non-violent offenses. Their goal is to reduce the incarceration and recidivism of these individuals by linking offenders to local behavioral health science providers to develop individualized treatment plans, under intensive supervision by the courts. We believe the use of mental health courts is vital to properly treat the mental illnesses underlying some criminal offenses, rather than further deteriorating one’s mental health by placing them in jail or prison. NAMI-NYC supports the expanded use of these courts, especially those that accept defendants with substance use disorders. We are committed to promoting awareness about these courts as an alternative to typical criminal proceedings to better the lives of those suffering from mental illness in the criminal justice system.

Enhanced discharge planning (for people living with a mental illness exiting jails and prisons and connecting them to Medicaid and appropriate services. This will help ensure they engage in recovery and prevent recidivism)
Incarcerated individuals are seldom provided with resources or critical social services upon their release. The absence of these provisions can be especially detrimental for people living with mental illness. NAMI-NYC supports the enactment of legislation which requires jails and prisons to provide incarcerated individuals affected by mental illness with comprehensive discharge plans connecting them with Medicaid, housing resources, and other appropriate services. Engaging in this type of enhanced discharge planning can help steer people towards meaningful recovery, facilitate societal reintegration, and reduce recidivism rates.

Crisis Response

New York City’s mental health crisis response system is broken. Having a mental health emergency is not a crime and should not be treated like one. Families and individuals in crisis need help, not handcuffs. NYPD should not be first responders to mental health emergencies. NAMI-NYC supports a holistic transformation of NYC’s crisis response process. Some components of this transformation include:

  • The formation of new mobile crisis teams which operate 24 hours a day, respond quickly and efficiently to mental health emergencies throughout the five boroughs, are culturally competent, and are composed entirely of non-police personnel.
  • The creation of an alternative three-digit phone(988) that can be used to request mental health resources during a crisis
  • Increased funding to provide resources to families and individuals before and after mental health emergencies occur

Budget Justice

We understand the historic budget challenges facing the city and state, but we cannot balance budgets on the backs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Now more than ever we must invest in community organizations like NAMI-NYC that are providing critical mental health services and supports. We are working harder than ever to provide services to more people than ever, but we cannot do it alone. We need financial support from the City Council and Legislature to make sure we can provide education and support to the ever increasing amount of New Yorkers impacted by mental health challenges.

Education

NAMI-NYC supports integrating mental health education into our educational system so we can increase understanding about mental illness, and give students and educators the tools needed to support themselves and their peers with mental health challenges. Education is a critical instrument in fighting mental health stigma and creating healthier communities. Education projects NAMI-NYC supports include:

Working with schools to incorporate Ending the Silence presentations