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Jordan Neely's death brings new scrutiny to New York City's mental health crisis

Jordan Neely's death brings new scrutiny to NYC's mental health crisis
Jordan Neely's death brings new scrutiny to NYC's mental health crisis 02:41

NEW YORK -- The chokehold death of Jordan Neely has put a spotlight on the issue of mental health across New York City.

CBS2 investigative reporter Tim McNicholas took a closer look at how the city treats people with mental illness and a spike in cases in the last few years.

CBS2 asked the NYPD for the number of 911 calls regarding people suffering from a mental health crisis. They gave us the last three years of data:  161,268 in 2020, 166,487 in 2021, and then a jump to 176,311 in 2022.

Many experts say the mental effects of the pandemic are contributing.

The mayor has laid out a plan to address mental health across the city, but not everyone is on board.

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From subway protests to speeches at City Hall, Neely's death has sparked calls for change in how New York City responds to people in a mental health crisis.

Neely's family says he suffered from mental illness, which started at age 14 after his mother was murdered.

NYPD sources say police had more than a dozen encounters with him over the years in which he appeared to be suffering mental health problems.

"Our vision is to create a better system," Mayor Eric Adams said.

In a speech this week, Adams stressed that the city has a Mobile Crisis Team, including social workers, that can arrange for people suffering severely to be taken to a hospital, in some cases, against their will.

"If physicians at that hospital find that the person has a mental illness and is dangerous to themselves or others, they have the authority to admit that person and retain them for treatment," Adams said.

But some mental health advocates say that approach can hinder long-term treatment.

"That coercive nature builds resistance and a 'I'll stay away from services even if there are services' kind of an approach," said Ruth Lowenkron, director of the Disability Justice Program.

CBS2 has learned Neely agreed earlier this year to 15 months of mental health treatment as part of a plea deal from a prior arrest. It was at an outpatient facility, so patients can come and go, and Neely left the program after just a couple weeks. A bench warrant was then issued Feb. 23 for violating terms of his plea agreement.

So what's next? The mayor plans to bring together five major organizations contracted for homeless services for a summit next week.

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