Two parents of people killed after mental illness calls to police are denouncing a new bill that purports to address the issue.

On Monday, the New York City Council Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction held a hearing on Intro 2210-2021 which would help create an office of community mental health and establish a citywide mental health emergency response protocol.

The bills were introduced by City Council Members Diana Ayala, Laurie Cumbo, Farah Louis, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and other council people, along with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

In Williams’ 2019 report, titled “Improving New York City’s Responses to Individuals in Mental Health Crisis,” Williams called for mental health crises to be met with a public health response in lieu of law enforcement with recommendations for a separate phone emergency hotline.

“For far too long, our city’s response to mental health calls has been a failure,” Williams testified. “Police officers are dispatched as first responders for people struggling with mental illness. In addition, access to a continuum of care is in effect non-existent for a large part of the population. In some cases, this can be fatal. In the past six years, at least 16 people undergoing a mental health crisis were killed by officers. Notably, 14 were people of more color. That is both devastating and a significant reason as to why the New York Police Department cannot respond to mental health calls as first responders.”

But not all are fans of the bill. Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah, and Eric Vassell, the father of Saheed Vassell, came out in opposition of the bill. The duo wanted to testify during the Zoom-directed hearing, but were scratched out at the last minute. That did not sit well with Bah.

“The City Council made a last-minute decision to remove Mr. Vassell and me from the first panel this morning because I would not testify in support of Intro 2210,” said Hawa Bah. “Intro 2210 does not remove police from mental health emergency response and this bill would not have saved my son, Mohamed Bah, if it had been law at the time of his killing. It will not save future lives from police violence in many of these cases. My mother died this weekend, I have family with me, and still I wanted to prioritize testifying today. I had set aside time because of how important this issue is for my family and other families whose loved ones were killed by the NYPD while they were experiencing emotional crises.”

Bah said she felt “disrespected” by the City Council for not being able to testify publicly and that she was used to the mayor and the NYPD doing such things but not the council.

Vassell said he didn’t approve of Intro 2210 stating that police officers shouldn’t be near any mental health calls.

“Officers who killed our children are still NYPD, they have still not been fired years later,” said Vassell, the father of Saheed Vassell who was murdered in 2018 by members of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group officers. “We fight not only for our children but also to prevent more police killings in our communities. I’m here today to oppose bill #2210.”

Both parties believe that racial disparities in mental health should be addressed first.

The AmNews contacted Council Speaker Johnson, Williams, Cumbo and Louis for comment.

Officials at the New York City Council’s press department were quick to respond to inquiries. We were told that the mothers weren’t barred from testifying and impacted families had their testimony read into the record. They also said that the issues the duo wants to be addressed are beyond the scope of the City Council and would require state and federal funding to tackle.

“The Council is committed to transforming public safety in New York City and that includes dramatically improving the response to individuals with mental health disorders by creating a non-police response for mental health emergencies,” said the spokesperson. “Council Member Ayala’s bill would create an entirely new Office of Community Mental Health, run by DOHMH rather than the NYPD, to ensure mental health emergencies are responded to by highly trained mental health professionals.”

City Council press department officials also pointed out that cops have to get involved in certain kinds of mental crises.

Williams, for his money, will continue his march towards the bill’s passing and eventual signing by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Mental health should not be seen or responded to as an untreated public threat,” stated Williams. “I hope through our legislative process, we can collectively create a crisis response where persons living with mental health diagnosis feel safe in their communities and know they’ll receive the proper care that they need. I also hope that we can bring healing to families that have experienced a loss or any trauma as a result of the system we now have in place now.”