Advocacy Snapshot: The State of Mental Health Policy in NYC  - NAMI-NYC

Advocacy Snapshot: The State of Mental Health Policy in NYC 

BREAKING NEWS: NAMI-NYC’s Response to City’s Proposed Involuntary Hospitalizations Based on “Meeting Basic Needs”

“AOT is a last resort mechanism, not a mental health response. People living with SMI have a right to person-centered and recovery-oriented mental health care. Instead of using the least restrictive approach, we are defaulting to an extreme that takes away basic human rights. We need to meet people where they are, not forcibly remove them. The City has the power to provide onsite treatment, as well as treatment in homeless shelters or supported housing, but has chosen not to.”

Read our full statement

Recent coverage: New York Times | Crain’s New York

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NAMI-NYC advocates with and alongside people living with mental illness—for their access to health, housing, education, and basic human rights. We have over 180 Advocacy Ambassadors who meet with our elected officials and take action year-round. This year, we’ve rallied, testified, and shared our stories to create a better, more equitable New York City for 1 in 5 of us living with mental illness and their families. How are we doing and where are we headed?” 

Know Your Rights 

  • Alongside CCIT-NYC, the Treatment Not Jail Coalition, and others, we’ve advocated for peer, not police response to mental health emergencies through the new 988 hotline. In May, with Jumaane Williams, Erik Bottcher, and Tiffany Caban, we rallied at City Hall for #HealthcareNotHandcuffs, so that people living with mental illness can access the mental healthcare they need. During Minority Mental Health Month in July, we launched the #NotOneMore campaign, refusing one more person from our community dies while in crisis.  
  • We made it clear that people living with mental illness are 11 times more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. We wrote to the New York Times on this major misconception about our community, called for supportive housing and peer outreach rather than more police on subway platforms, and advocated against the expansion of Kendra’s Law.  


NAMI-NYC supports policies that increase access to mental health services, and improve quality of care.  

  • We continue to advocate for key changes that would improve psychiatric emergency room visits. In partnership with Manhattan Together, we are launching our own psych ER survey that will be more comprehensive and reach all 5 boroughs. We testified to make recommendations to the New York Attorney General. We requested greater family engagement, which is critical for care decisions and continued support after discharge from the hospital. We also recommended shorter wait times, more follow-up resources and referrals, and better training for hospital staff.  
  • We also need city-funded, community-operated respite centers that offer short-term help to those who are experiencing a crisis. We testified for this investment in crisis respite centers and walk-in mental health clinics as alternatives to psychiatric emergency hospitals. Not all crises require inpatient hospital settings.  
  • NAMI-NYC also knows the critical importance of increased access to culturally and linguistically competent mental health services. During a budget hearing this year, we requested an investment in BIPOC mental health professionals. We advocated for S5209, which would create a minority mental health division aiming to address disparities and ensure culturally responsive programs are created.  


Approximately 50,000 units of supportive housing exist in New York. The majority are located in NYC, but there remains a dire need. One out of every five people who have been approved and meet the requirements for supportive housing do not gain access to a home. We are members of and work actively with SHOUT (Supportive Housing Organizers and United Tenants) to ensure people living with mental illness know their rights and access the resources to advocate for themselves. Alongside WIN, we advocated for mental health professionals in NYC family shelters.  


NAMI-NYC believes in integrating mental health awareness education into our educational system. This is so educators and students can be better equipped to understand mental illnesses and support themselves and others who are struggling. In a budget hearing this year, we requested funding for the universal screening of all public school students, grades pre-K through 12. Not only are young people experiencing post-COVID trauma, but we’re in the midst of a mental health emergency. That’s why we launched our campaign this fall to ensure kids know about the 988 hotline.  

Decriminalizing Mental Illness  

NAMI-NYC is committed to preventing people living with mental illness from interacting with the criminal-legal system and gaining access to care through mental health courts.   

Though 988 launched in July, we continue to see police rather than peer response to mental health emergencies, resulting in a disproportionate number of deaths among Black and brown New Yorkers. We will not accept 16 unjust deaths while in custody at Rikers or the inhumane use of solitary confinement despite the passage of the HALT Act to end such practices in 2020.  

We rallied to remember Elijah Muhammad, Miguel Richards, and the countless others living with mental health, substance use disorder or dual diagnoses at Rikers who have died due to negligence. In September, we testified before the NYC Council Committee on Criminal Justice to call for an end to solitary confinement as an inhumane practice and putting New Yorkers at increased risk for suicide in jail and even after release. New Yorkers living with mental illness deserve access. 

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