Yang asks whose rights come first: people with mental illness, or everyone else?

After the first half of the debate featured a rancorous exchange on how to help mentally ill people on the streets, the moderators returned to the matter later in the evening, when they asked the candidates how they planned to fix the city’s lack of a “functioning mental health system.”

Andrew Yang doubled down on his earlier comments that it was crucial to get people with untreated mental illness off the streets, citing a series of attacks against Asian New Yorkers, many of which were committed by mentally ill people.

“Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights? We do: the people and families of the city,” Mr. Yang said. “We have the right to walk the street and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us.”

Ray McGuire said he would make more use of Kendra’s law, which allows courts to compel those arrested to undergo psychiatric treatment when they are believed to be dangerous.

Scott Stringer noted that a large percentage of 911 calls are not for crimes in progress but to report people with mental health issues. Last year, the police responded to 154,045 calls involving people deemed emotionally disturbed. Mr. Stringer recommended the city adopt a system used in Eugene, Ore., where mental health professionals respond to emergency calls.

Dianne Morales made the issue personal. “Everyone on this stage has someone in their lives who has a mental health problem, if not themselves,” she said, adding that her daughter had “had mental health needs for years.” She said that despite being “someone who’s connected,” she had struggled to get her daughter appropriate care.

Ms. Morales said the city needed to create “integrated community health clinics” where people could get access a “continuum of care ranging from peer counseling to much more intensive treatment.”

Joseph Goldstein contributed reporting.

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