A fractured treatment system leaves New York City’s mentally ill with little place to turn – sometimes with tragic consequences.


By Christine Brink, Noah Caldwell, Mary Hanbury,

Anthony Izaguirre, Michael O’Brien & Joanna Purpich


The New York deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s and 1970s spurred the closings of mammoth state psychiatric wards as government officials promised to channel taxpayer dollars into more humane community programs for the mentally ill.

But more than four decades later, as New York City First Lady Charlane McCray put it in 2015,  “Our mental health system is broken.”

A NYCity News Service investigation found a well-intentioned but threadbare safety net, leaving tens of thousands of mentally ill with little place to turn, sometimes with tragic consequences. Interviews with dozens of stakeholders at the center of the crisis and an examination of countless court records, inspection reports, budget documents and audits revealed:

  • Mentally ill New Yorkers dying in police encounters.
  • Most violence in New York’s jails involves inmates with a history of psychiatric illness.
  • Accusations of overuse of restraints on adults and children in psychiatric wards at city-run Bellevue Hospital.
  • Understaffed schools too often ship off unruly youngsters to hospitals by ambulance.
  • Private adult group home operators improperly pressuring mentally ill residents to remain in their housing complexes.
  • Too little city supportive housing to help mentally ill New Yorkers get back on their feet.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has made mental health care reform a key part of his administration. “Breakdown” looks at how far the city has to go.


of police encounters are with the mentally ill


of police not fully trained to deal with mentally ill


of inmates suffer from mental illness


of students transported to ERs for mental problems are taken needlessly


Undertrained cops and jails guards struggle to deal with the emotionally disturbed.   More>>>


Unruly students are getting hauled away in ambulances instead of getting sent to the principal’s office.   More>>>


Hospitals have become ill-equipped dumping grounds for psychiatric patients.   More>>>


Mentally ill homeless fill streets and shelters amid a lack of supportive housing.   More>>>


Group home residents are free to leave – but often don’t, thanks to greedy operators.       More>>>