There has been quite a bit of debate regarding legality about Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s order to bring the undomiciled (homeless) into the New York City Shelter System when the temperature drops below freezing… which it did yesterday for the first time in 279 days. Here is a quote from a New York Times article on the subject:
Zachary W. Carter, Mr. de Blasio’s corporation counsel, said in an internal city document that there were three ways to remove people from the street: voluntary entrance into shelter; arrest if a crime was being committed; and involuntary transfer for psychiatric evaluation or treatment if they posed a danger to themselves or others.
This is the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) OPS Order issued January 4, 2016:
So basically, the people who will be enforcing and carrying out the removal of alert and oriented undomiciled citizens will be the EMTs and Paramedics of New York City. It’s a good thing it is now a felony to assault an EMT or Paramedic in New York now… not that it has ever stopped an alert and oriented person from lashing out at those attempting to force their will upon them. Why do we continue to use ambulances to transport otherwise medically stable patients with psychiatric issues to places they do not necessarily even want to go?
I want to stress that it will be ALL the 9-1-1 system ambulances, because all the ambulances in the New York City 9-1-1 System are NOT just FDNY units. A third of the system is comprised of units from the Voluntary Hospitals, and those ambulances will be following the same order.
We should note that the four facilities listed in the memo are city run hospitals by the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation. The four facilities are Woodhull (Brooklyn), Metropolitan (Manhattan), North Central Bronx (Bronx), and Queens General Hospital (Queens). At least, the city is directing the patients to city hospitals, although depending on where you are coming from it could be quite the transport time. I really hope they don’t expect any of these refusals to be transported with lights and sirens… something the Order leaves out and is, therefore, open for interpretation.
Suspiciously left off the list is the borough of Staten Island. Assuming all Staten Island undomiciled, alert and oriented, refusing to go to a shelter people are being transported to Brooklyn’s Woodhull Hospital, then you are looking, at least, to an 11.7 mile trip from the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge to the hospital.
Still wondering why it’s taking those ambulances so long to get there? The answer should be obvious from the map above, that is if this report didn’t spell it out for you already (HINT:it did).
Another interesting note… the order states the patients will be considered Emotionally Disturbed. However the NYC REMAC replaced Emotionally Disturbed with Excited Delirium for protocol #430 back in March. I know it’s minor, but it illustrates both the poor planning and lack of detail that has gone into this.
This bothers me because once again we are put at risk more than we should be due to politics. Do I want every undomiciled person to be in a warm safe place on such a cold night? Absolutely. Do I think we should be using ambulances to force them? Absolutely not. There are other resources for that (psychiatric crisis teams, NYPD) and not using them is just as ineffective as using an ambulance in place of them.
I’m curious about your thoughts on the matter. Here’s a quick poll and feel free to expound in the comments…