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An ‘aggressive and untested interpretation’ of the law

Doug Wolfberg raises concerns about New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ mental health directive

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Homelessness union organizer at Vocal-NY Celina Trowell, right, speaks at a rally Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in New York. Advocates for people with mental illnesses protested New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to force people from the streets and into mental health treatment.

AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

This episode of EMS One-Stop with Rob Lawrence is brought to you by Lexipol, the experts in policy, training, wellness support and grants assistance for first responders and government leaders. To learn more, visit

New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently announced a directive for police and emergency medical workers to hospitalize people on the streets and subways who have severe, untreated mental illness. Adams said the directive was an effort to curb a recent wave of crimes involving people experiencing homelessness and will allow law enforcement and EMS to involuntarily hospitalize people who pose a danger to themselves, even if they don’t pose a risk to others.

The directive, which has been met with major concern – as voiced in a New York Times op-ed by an FDNY Paramedic Lieutenant, is fraught with concerns in the burden being placed on EMS to solve the mental health crisis.

In this episode of EMS One-Stop, Doug Wolfberg, EMS attorney and founding partner of Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC, joins host Rob Lawrence to discuss how the directive is a departure from the usual mental health standard.

“The Mayor’s office is using a very aggressive and untested interpretation of the state mental health law to essentially deputize EMS clinicians to involuntarily remove anyone who is mentally ill and unable to meet their own basic needs,” Wolfberg notes.


Read more:

Why politicians shouldn’t dictate clinical standards of care

“EMS providers are effectively being required to intervene and transport persons merely because they are homeless and apparently mentally ill”

Rob Lawrence has been a leader in civilian and military EMS for over a quarter of a century. He is currently the director of strategic implementation for PRO EMS and its educational arm, Prodigy EMS, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and part-time executive director of the California Ambulance Association.

He previously served as the chief operating officer of the Richmond Ambulance Authority (Virginia), which won both state and national EMS Agency of the Year awards during his 10-year tenure. Additionally, he served as COO for Paramedics Plus in Alameda County, California.

Prior to emigrating to the U.S. in 2008, Rob served as the COO for the East of England Ambulance Service in Suffolk County, England, and as the executive director of operations and service development for the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust. Rob is a former Army officer and graduate of the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served worldwide in a 20-year military career encompassing many prehospital and evacuation leadership roles.

Rob is a board member of the Academy of International Mobile Healthcare Integration (AIMHI) as well as chair of the American Ambulance Association’s State Association Forum. He writes and podcasts for EMS1 and is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Connect with him on Twitter.