Michelle Go was pushed in front of a subway car by a man suffering from schizophrenia that had fallen through the cracks of New York’s mental health care system. Michelle’s death was imminent because the severely ill man had every right to be on the streets under present law. This note will discuss the problems with New York’s mental hygiene laws that prevent courts from mandating treatment even when treatment is in the state’s best interest.

Michelle’s death is not unique. Historically, New York has struggled to enact effective legislation governing the treatment of mentally ill individuals. As a result, hundreds of thousands of mentally ill New Yorkers evade treatment each year. While courts mandate treatment upon individuals adjudicated to be a threat to themselves or others, this standard creates a burden that has proven too difficult to establish in a court of law. The state’s mental hygiene statutes do not seek to prevent the deterioration of a person suffering from a severe mental illness. Therefore, courts lack the authority to mandate treatment even when treatment is in the patient’s best interest. Amending New York’s assisted outpatient statute to include a preventative standard for schizophrenia, manic depression, and bipolar disorder would allow courts to equitably protect the mentally ill population and the community at large.