Moving Mentally Ill People Off the Streets of New York

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  • Mr. Biden, Don’t Run
  • Republicans, Look in the Mirror
  • Carrying Guns in Public: A Brief History
  • ‘Love Is Love’

In a speech on Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams issued a directive telling city agencies to transport people with severe mental illness to hospitals.Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “New York Aims to Clear Streets of Mentally Ill” (front page, Nov. 30):

It is many years overdue but, finally, Mayor Eric Adams has courageously acted to bring relief caused by the failed policies that have long harmed mentally ill people in New York City.

By ordering involuntary hospitalization, he is replacing an immoral and scandalous indifference to severe chronic illness with a humane and moral approach.

Claiming autonomy and personal choice as reasons to keep severely mentally ill people who lack competence on our streets makes no sense. Allowing the sick to “rot with their rights on” may appeal to single-minded civil libertarians, but it is deeply disrespectful to the dignity and kindness that mentally ill people deserve.

While the lawsuits will surely fly, the real challenge is to find enough money, beds and providers to ensure that homeless (and incarcerated) men and women with severe mental illness receive care, not a cardboard box.

Arthur Caplan
Ridgefield, Conn.
The writer is a professor of bioethics at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine.

To the Editor:

Mayor Eric Adams’s plan to involuntarily hospitalize homeless people with no indication that they are a threat (to anything besides his city’s image) is discrimination veiled in compassion.

Addressing the well-being of the unhoused would involve improving the root structural issues leading to poverty and the inability to afford rent. Poor mental health is often a side effect of housing insecurity and being put on the margins of society.

Forcing someone into a hospital system not designed for long-term stays, and that is already strained, does not fix this issue. Slapping a bandage on a bullet wound, or temporarily removing the homeless from the street, does not a compassionate policy make.

I don’t see a mental health crisis as much as I see a desperate need for appropriate and affordable housing.

Loren Barcenas
Chapel Hill, N.C.
The writer is a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.

To the Editor:

As a disability rights lawyer, I’ve represented many clients with mental illness. I’ve also witnessed the tragedy of three immediate family members suffering from schizophrenia, including both my parents in the 1960s and 1970s.

Choices about involuntary treatment can be excruciating. Psychiatric drugs sometimes have severe side effects. Worse, America has failed to ensure that hospitals provide safe, clean, therapeutic treatment settings. I’ve visited psychiatric hospitals that no one would want a family member to be forced to stay in; my mother died in one when I was a teenager.

That said, we’ve also done a disservice to mentally ill people through revolving-door hospitalization that both frustrates family members and dumps at-risk patients back into the community, untreated, where they often face homelessness or worse.

Mayor Eric Adams’s call for workable plans to connect discharged patients with ongoing care can work only if safe, high-quality care is available. For the sake of America’s most vulnerable people, officials must see that it is.

David Scott
Columbus, Ohio

Mr. Biden, Don’t Run

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Biden’s Team Ready to Go on Offensive With ‘Trump Project’” (news article, Nov. 17):

The best way for President Biden to avoid a “constant stream of invective from the former president” is to not run for re-election. And by not running he could add considerably to his accomplishments of his first two years.

We need Mr. Biden to step aside and mentor the next generation of leaders, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the majority leader, and Representative James E. Clyburn, the majority whip, are doing. We need him to help the Senate pass legislation on issues that were crucial to midterm voters — reproductive rights, inflation, crime and immigration — which the House will likely reject, showing Republicans’ true colors.

We need Mr. Biden to champion legislation on climate change, protection of democracy and gun control — laws that may not pass until the Democrats retake the House but that will show the country that this is the party fighting for a brighter, more equal future.

We need him to continue to build our international relationships, issue impactful executive orders, fill executive agencies with gifted administrators, appoint exceptional judges and mend the divide in this country.

Campaigning and fund-raising will only distract Mr. Biden from these achievements.

Paula Toomey
Sean Toomey
Vail, Ariz.

Republicans, Look in the Mirror

Former President Donald J. Trump hosted a rally in Greensburg, Pa., where he railed against “illegal aliens.”Credit…Kristian Thacker for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Former Allies Holding Back on Trump ’24” (front page, Nov. 17):

Republican politicians, donors and media figures blame Donald Trump for their party’s disappointing showing in the midterm elections. They fail to consider their own role in Mr. Trump’s domination of their party.

By relentlessly attacking the responsible press and creating an alternate reality of self-serving lies, Republicans have separated their party’s base from the information it needs to see Donald Trump for what he is.

The Republican elite should ask itself how the erosion of its principles has endangered not just its party’s power in Washington but also the democracy to which it professes allegiance.

Joshua P. Hill
New London, Conn.

Carrying Guns in Public: A Brief History

Armed protesters at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on Jan. 6, 2021.Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Protesters Turn to Guns to Shout Over Their Rivals” (front page, Nov. 26):

If the recent rise in public gun carrying demonstrates anything, it is that it contradicts our own gun history.

As I have discovered in my research on historical gun laws, from the 1600s through the start of the 20th century, at least three-quarters of the states enacted laws to punish public gun carrying — whether it was gun “brandishing” (displaying a gun in a threatening manner) or mere public gun display.

For example, New Jersey yielded to “great complaint by the inhabitants” when it enacted a law criminalizing both public and concealed carrying of weapons because it provoked “great fear and quarrels.” That is no less true today than it was in 1686, the year of the New Jersey law.

Robert J. Spitzer
Williamsburg, Va.
The writer, emeritus professor of political science at SUNY Cortland, is the author of six books about gun policy, including “The Gun Dilemma: How History Is Against Expanded Gun Rights.”

‘Love Is Love’

Zhe and Tiffany

To the Editor:

Re “I Want the World to See Us Kissing,” by Kadar R. Small (Opinion, Nov. 27):

Mr. Small’s photos are gorgeous, and his article is a brilliant reminder that we should, as he says, cherish “one another shamelessly.” This is a compelling message, no matter your sexuality.

We need more photos and opinions like this to remind us all that love is love and that when you have love, it should be celebrated by everyone. Is there such a surfeit of love in the world that we as humans should ever doubt the beauty and resonance of L.G.B.T.Q. love?

No, if anything there is a scarcity, and all love should be honored and respected. Life is hard enough without bothering about whom other people love. This essay and the photos remind us to support each other, and together, as best we can, embrace whatever joy we can find in our lives.

Emily Flautt

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