Crown Heights Shooting of Mr. Vassell Latest Example of Failure of NYC Mental Health Policy

(New York, April 5, 2018) The shooting of mentally ill Saheed Vassell by police in Crown Heights is the latest example of the failure of NYC mental health policy. Like with Deborah Danner, police had brought Mr. Vassell to the hospital for psychiatric care on multiple occasions and, like with Deborah Danner, he was released each time apparently without adequate follow-up. Shootings by police of mentally ill and shootings by mentally ill of police are both due to lack of treatment. 39% of the seriously mentally ill in New York do not receive treatment. Until New York focuses its mental health budget on the most seriously ill, and expands use of Kendra’s Law, we will see more of these tragic incidents.

DJ Jaffe, executive director, Mental Illness Policy Org


DJ Jaffe is Executive Director of the non-partisan Mental Illness Policy Org., and author of Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill. He is a critic of the mental health industry for ignoring the seriously ill, and has been advocating for better treatment for individuals with serious mental illness for over 30 years. He has written op-eds on the intersection of mental health and criminal justice policy for the New York Times, Wall St. Journal and the Washington Post. New York Magazine has credited him with being the driving force behind the passage of New York’s Kendra’s Law and Congress incorporated ideas proposed by DJ in the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.