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Blistering state audit finds New York City's homeless services are failing people with mental illness

State finds failures in NYC shelter system after interviewing thousands of homeless people
State finds failures in NYC shelter system after interviewing thousands of homeless people 03:06

NEW YORK -- The New York State Comptroller's Office has released a blistering report about the city's failure to handle mentally ill homeless people in the shelter system.

It comes as Mayor Eric Adams is under fire for the plan unveiled this week directing police to send mentally ill homeless people to hospitals for evaluation. 

Thursday, the comptroller's office released a 41-page report showing it believes the New York City Department of Homeless Services has been falling short in meeting the needs of those who suffer with mental health issues.

The audit looked at the background information of more than 17,000 homeless individuals and examined their current shelter and program assignment, CBS2's Elijah Westbrook reported Friday. 

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the city's homeless shelter system is missing the mark when it comes to properly taking care of the mentally ill. The report shows placement in a specialized facility may lower the risk to those inside and outside the shelter system. 

DiNapoli's audit found issues with the system's assessment process, saying DHS does not utilize all available data and that clients were self reporting answers that don't always reveal the true situation. 

Auditors found instances where people were assessed and placed in shelters that did not match the information documented by caseworkers, and there were extensive delays in placement into a shelter - nearly a month in some cases. 

"We're going to be more responsive, we're gonna be clear, we're gonna be compassionated. But we're not punting this issue. We're going to face this issue head on," said Adams. 

The scathing report comes as first responders and outreach workers are being directed by the mayor to transport people experiencing a mental health crisis on the streets or subways to a hospital if they are a danger to themselves or unable to meet their basic needs.

Other city leaders are criticizing the plan

"The problem is this plan doesn't lay out the help. It focuses a lot on the involuntary removal and so we have to get some additional questions answered," said New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams

The comptroller's office looked at information of more than 17,000 homeless individuals. Of those, it reports more than 3,000 were diagnosed with serious mental illness that should have qualified them for a mental health shelter. It also found people with known substance abuse issues were routinely placed in facilities that did not have specialized care. 

DiNapoli recommended DHS further consider what actions to take for clients who may cause danger to themselves or others, including transferring those into shelters that better serve their needs. 

DHS disagreed with the report's findings and blamed some of the setbacks on precautions that were implemented during the pandemic.

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