Most NYC Public Hospitals Deny Psych Patients Time Outside, Lawyers Say

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From Gothamist: “Lawyers from state watchdog agency Mental Hygiene Legal Services and nonprofit legal group Disability Rights Advocates investigated the policies and practices around outdoor recreation at every psychiatric unit at a hospital operated by NYC Health + Hospitals between May and December of last year. They found that seven of the system’s 11 hospitals deprive patients of all access to fresh air, regardless of their medical conditions or how long they’re being kept in the hospitals.

Only four hospitals in the system offer some level of regular access to the outdoors, according to the report: Jacobi hospital in the Bronx and Kings County, South Brooklyn and Woodhull hospitals in Brooklyn.

The median length of a psychiatric hospitalization in a city hospital is two weeks, according to NYC Health + Hospitals. But the lawyers spoke to some patients in the course of their investigation who had been hospitalized — and confined indoors — for months, or in rare cases, more than a year.

Some city hospitals deny patients outdoor access despite having written policies that recognize the benefits of fresh air, according to the findings.

. . . The authors of the report argue that existing laws are sufficient to make the practice of denying New York patients outdoor time illegal. They argue in the report that the current denial of fresh air constitutes discrimination against people with disabilities under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. They also argue that it violates patients’ constitutional rights — specifically, the denial of liberty without due process — and the city’s Human Rights Law.”

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