New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched an investigation into a hospital that released a man who sought psychiatric care prior to killing a police officer.
Governor Cuomo said the review was important “under tragic circumstances such as these,” according to an article published by the Associated Press. Alexander Bonds, the man who shot Officer Miosotis Familia in the Bronx, had received a psychiatric evaluation at St. Barnabas Hospital on July 1. Bonds’ girlfriend, who took Bonds to the hospital for the examination, said he was released after approximately an hour.
The frequency with which patients with complex mental health issues wind up facing long emergency department stays and a relative shortage of psychiatric beds has sparked calls for improved strategies to deal with mentally ill patients.
In a statement to the AP, Steven Clark, a spokesman for St. Barnabas, said the hospital believes “all mental health procedures and safeguards were properly followed” during an emergency room stay that the hospital indicates lasted between 7 and 8 hours.
New York State law allows for the involuntary hospitalization of individuals for two days or more if psychiatrists determine them to be a risk to others or to themselves, according to an updated AP story that ran in The Salt Lake Tribune. Although some cases are clear cut, especially where patients exhibit violence or appear to be under the influence of drugs, the majority of cases require psychiatrists to make a judgment, Vivian Pender, M.D., a psychiatrist and public affairs representative for the New York County Psychiatric Society, told the publication.
“There’s this vast gray area in the middle that takes a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge and balancing all of the factors that go into a good assessment,” she said.