On Wednesday, September 28th, the New York City Council unanimously passed legislation sponsored by Council Member Andrew Cohen that requires the City of New York to perform mental health screenings of all individuals who are brought to criminal courts for arraignment, as well as mandates more extensive gathering and sharing of health records within the criminal justice system.
The legislation, Introduction 1183, was introduced in May 2016, and heard by the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Disability Services, chaired by Council Member Cohen, on September 22, 2016. It was passed with a package of related legislation increasing oversight of the quality of life of persons incarcerated in the city’s Department of Correction facilities, including women with newborn children.
“The driving goal of this legislation is to ensure that individuals entering the justice system are treated in a humane and sensitive manner,” said Council Member Cohen.
The new measure sponsored by Council Member Cohen requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to ensure that every arrestee brought to a criminal court for arraignment is screened for possible mental health issues prior to being arraigned, and to create a report for such individuals. It also requires that agency to request the health information of any arrestee treated by any health care provider while in NYPD custody. This health information, in addition to any other records which would assist DOHMH in treating the inmate while in custody, are to be requested and utilized in support of the individual’s care and wellbeing.
Council Member Cohen added: “This change in the law mandates more extensive gathering and sharing of health records and reports while an inmate is in custody. All of this information would be made available to correctional health services during their first evaluation of an inmate, to ensure a continuity of care for that individual. Everyone involved in the system will be better off if this legislation passes.