NYC Health + Hospitals CEO defends police handcuffing of psychiatric patient

The CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals in New York City stood by the response of police officers who handcuffed a psychiatric patient in a subway station Nov. 22, according to local news station Spectrum News NY1.

In a video posted to Twitter, police are shown handcuffing a homeless woman with mental illness as Mitchell Katz, MD, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, stands in the background. Dr. Katz told Spectrum News NY1 the woman was a patient of the health system who refused to come to the hospital.

"At that point, she was still not willing; the only alternative was to abandon her," Dr. Katz told the news station. "I do not think to abandon people with serious mental illness to be homeless in the subway, no bathroom facilities, is the appropriate response for a compassionate society."

Dr. Katz and the police officers faced backlash from the public and homeless advocacy organizations, who called the decision to handcuff the woman dehumanizing. 

In a statement shared on Twitter Nov. 22, Dr. Katz defended the outcome of the situation and said the woman was not arrested or charged with a crime.

"In clinical circumstances, where someone's mental illness is severe, the right thing to do is to bring them to a hospital so they can be appropriately evaluated and cared for," his statement read. He continued: "Ideally, people would voluntarily accept care, but often enough this does not occur. That doesn't mean that our responsibility ends to just leave people uncared for. I was present [in the subway station] because I feel that it is our obligation to do everything we can to get people to accept care."

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