DHS failures in handling NYC mentally ill homeless has turned deadly, scathing audit finds
The Big Apple’s embattled Department of Homeless Services struggles to connect needy New Yorkers living in city shelters with desperately needed mental health services — a failure that has had deadly consequences, an incendiary new report reveals.
The blistering 41-page audit from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli linked botched placements by DHS to two recent murder cases, an attempted murder, a robbery, a shelter suicide and at least two drug overdoses.
“Based on DHS records, there is limited assurance that clients were being placed in and/or transferred to a shelter that could best provide the services necessary to help the individual move forward to permanent housing, independent living, or further treatment in a more appropriate setting if necessary,” DiNapoli’s report states.
The review also determined that DHS frequently gives scarce rooms in treatment shelters to New Yorkers without mental health issues — while failing to transfer drug abusers and the mentally ill to specialized facilities when beds open up.
The stunning stats unearthed by the watchdog show:
- 26% of the 3,022 identified as having a serious mental health condition were not placed in a shelter that offered mental health services
- 49% of the 1,061 diagnosed as alcoholics or having drug abuse issues were not placed in a shelter offering appropriate services
- 43% of the 1,546 homeless seniors were placed in general shelters
The cascading set of bureaucratic failures makes it more difficult for the needy and mentally ill New Yorkers to maintain their treatment and therapy, which can lead to relapses and make it far more difficult for them to return to a normal life.
Buried deep in the report is the shocking revelation that DiNapoli’s probers discovered that homeless New Yorkers misplaced by DHS were both the perpetrators or victims of high-profile crimes.
Auditors linked one murder to a DHS client — not identified in the report — who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but spent more than three years living in regular shelter despite his social worker reporting he was not on his medication.
He fell out of the system and, six weeks later, was charged with a murder committed during a robbery.
The catalog of failures assembled by the state Comptroller found several instances where DHS got it right — and then got it wrong.
Another client diagnosed with schizophrenia was initially placed in a mental health services shelter but was then transferred at least 12 times. He ended up in a general population shelter in August 2020 and, several months later was arrested and charged with murder.
DiNapoli’s report revealed that often the consequences of DHS’s failures were borne by the very people the shelter system is supposed to help — the homeless.
A DHS client was diagnosed as schizophrenic during his intake into the shelter system. But, he was placed in a general shelter where he suffered from psychotic episodes and failed to take his medication — and was later found dead from an apparent suicide.
An 89-year old homeless man was placed in a general population shelter instead of a senior shelter. There, he was assaulted by a 40-year old man with a criminal record and had to be taken to the hospital.
Currently, more than 63,000 New Yorkers live in city-funded shelters — the bulk are families with children, who have lost their apartments due to economic distress or domestic violence.
The report focused on DHS shelters for single adults, a population of approximately 20,000 who are typically the highest need population.
DHS officials defended their performance in their response to DiNapoli and claimed that every shelter is capable of providing the basic required services for homeless New Yorkers.
They also repeatedly flagged capacity constraints across the system — claims that DiNapoli’s audit cast doubts on.
The audit found that 103 of the 368 beds in senior shelters were held by those under 65 and that hundreds of mental health treatment beds were sitting unused, according to information they obtained in October 2021.
“While DHS welcomes any audit that helps us improve our services, the state Comptroller’s audit draws conclusions without regard to regulations, laws, privacy concerns, or operational constraints we face,” said DHS spokesman Stephen Witt.
“This audit fails to acknowledge these factors and makes dangerous and unfounded assumptions about our clients and services.”
Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan
The Sarpy County – Latest News:
Omaha Local News || Nebraska State News || Crime and Safety News || National news || Tech News || Lifestyle News