A panel was charged with studying the issue after several high profile incidents of violence involving suspects with mental illness _ including the case of a New York City psychotherapist who was hacked to death with a meat cleaver and a Georgia man accused of randomly stabbing two people on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.
The panel's report identified a series of problems, including poor coordination, fragmented oversight and lack of accountability in the mental health system. The panel also found that the quality of care for people with mental health problems is inconsistent.
The report criticizes both systems for a limited capacity to share information with each other, and for insufficient training, supports and tools to identify and help people with mental illness.
Individuals with mental illnesses in (New York state) face challenges that are similar to, and sometimes more profound than, those found elsewhere in the United States," according to the report released Thursday.
"While dedicated clinicians and programs provide high quality care to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with mental illnesses every year, (the state's) mental health system is exceptionally large, and it is therefore quite difficult to track and facilitate access to quality care for those most in need."
The panel has also issued a series of recommendations that Gov. David Paterson and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plan to apply for the sake of public safety.
"Taking a hard look at what may have gone wrong in particular cases is a necessary first step toward improving the care and treatment of those with serious mental illnesses _ both in the mental health care system and when those persons become involved with the criminal justice system," Paterson said in a written statement. "And the state is prepared to move forward in implementing the panel's recommendations."
In New York City, officials want to create a database that would allow teams to monitor care for adults with the most need and give the staff the ability to take action if there is an interruption in service, or an escalating need for care.
Bloomberg and Paterson have also proposed a pilot program that would share information between the criminal justice and mental health treatment systems to identify people with serious mental illnesses.
A New York City alternative-to-detention pilot program would provide assessment, case management, supervision and community-based treatment to defendants with mental illnesses who might otherwise be detained while their cases are moving through the courts. Only those who don't pose a high risk of recidivism or flight would be eligible.
Paterson is proposing legislation that would allow the mental health commissioner to convene quality assurance panels to examine incidents in which people with serious mental illnesses are harmed, cause harm to others, or become involved in violent criminal incidents.
The changes will cost roughly $13 million dollars taken from existing resources and split by the city and the state, said Marissa Shorenstein, a Paterson spokeswoman. The state has already started implementing some of the changes, others will be incorporated later in the fiscal year.
David Tarloff is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 12 death of 56-year-old psychotherapist Kathryn Faughey. He is currently being held at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.
Lee Coleman of Rome, Ga., is charged with slashing Amansit Singh, 56, and Susan Baron, 67, on 2nd Avenue last fall.
"Uncoordinated care in a fragmented system was a factor in tragic outcomes" said Michael Hogan, commissioner of the office of mental health