Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 197-204

First online:

Law, policy, and involuntary emergency room visits

  • Neal L. CohenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, The Mount Sinai HospitalMount Sinai School of Medicine
  • , Luis R. MarcosAffiliated withNew York City Health and Hospitals CorporationNew York University School of Medicine

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The authors present data showing that the number of mentally ill individuals brought by police officers to psychiatric emergency rooms in New York City increased by 69 percent from 1983 to 1989. They conclude that while the statutory criteria for the involuntary removal of mentally ill persons to hospitals have not changed, case law decisions and public policies that facilitate the involuntary treatment of patients who neglect their essential needs have contributed to this trend. The impact of these visits on hospital based psychiatric emergency rooms is discussed in terms of increased clinical and legal responsibility for the disposition of persons who are considered dangerous including those who are self-neglectful of their own essential needs.