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Expert: NYC Homeless Plan Raises ‘Serious Legal, Ethical’ Questions

UMass Lowell Psychologist Available for Interviews

Allen House on UMass Lowell South Campus
Psychologist Alice Frye is an associate teaching professor at UMass Lowell.

12/08/2022

Media contacts: Emily Gowdey-Backus, director of media relations, Emily_GowdeyBackus@uml.edu and Nancy Cicco, assistant director of media relations, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to involuntarily commit homeless and mentally ill people risks becoming “a very expensive revolving door,” according to a UMass Lowell psychologist available for interviews.

Adams recently unveiled a plan to empower police and other response workers to remove mentally ill and homeless people from the city’s streets and subway system and commit them to treatment, if believed to be a threat to themselves or other people.

UMass Lowell’s Alice Frye, a clinical psychologist, counts herself among the plan’s critics. 

“Aside from the serious legal and ethical questions raised by what the mayor is suggesting, there are the questions of feasibility and effectiveness,” she said. “Good quality inpatient treatment can be a godsend for the seriously mentally ill. But good quality treatment consists of more than beds, and coercing people into treatment is not usually a great starting point.” 

Should Adams’ plan move forward, it needs to be far more comprehensive and garner greater public support, according to Frye.

“The quality of treatment is key, as is the quality and consistency of supports in the environment people are returned to after treatment; both of which have historically been more costly than U.S. communities are typically willing to fund, unfortunately,” she said. “There is so much ongoing and profound disagreement about how much responsibility we bear for the well-being of our fellow citizens. I'm afraid what the mayor is proposing risks being a very expensive revolving door unless the community has or can create the infrastructure to support effective in-patient treatment and post-treatment support.” 

Frye is an expert on interpersonal relationships, family and couples’ dynamics, and adolescent development. An associate teaching professor of psychology at UMass Lowell, she also serves as the co-director of the university’s Center for Autism Research and Education (CARE). 

To arrange an interview with her, contact Emily Gowdey-Backus or Nancy Cicco