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New York. Mayor Adams Appears Live on CNN’s “State of the Union With Jake Tapper & Dana Bash”

Transcript:  Dana Bash: Welcome back to State of the Union. As big city mayors come under increased pressure to make cities safer, New York City mayor, Eric Adams announced a sweeping new plan this week to better help mentally ill New Yorkers. Improving their access to housing and treatment options, and expanding the use of medical professionals rather than police to respond to mental health related 911 calls. Here with me now is New York City mayor, Eric Adams. Thank you so much. Appreciate you being here.

Mayor Eric Adams: Morning, good to see you.

Bash: So this new proposal, there is a lot in it. We just mentioned some of it. When will New Yorkers start to actually feel the impact of this and also how much will it cost them?

Mayor Adams: Well, they are now. When you saw the first phase of our subway safety plan and our initiative to get those with serious mental health issues to the point that they were in danger to themselves and others, couldn’t take care of their basic needs. People pushed back, but I was clear and I was focused. We started to see the removement of encampments on our subway system. 4,000 people we brought inside for care, over a thousand remains. Some went to say, their families. Now we’re moving to the next level, young people with mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and those were serious mental health issues. Partnering with the governor, we’re going to see over 8,000 units of permanent housing with wraparound services. So you’re starting to see the results now.

Bash: When will those new services, like the mobile units start to take effect and again, how much will it cost?

Mayor Adams: $20 million is a new introduction that we put in place with an unprecedented new way of using telemedicine for mental health. This is something brand new, has not been used before of giving out fentanyl strips for those with substance abuse so they can test some of the drugs that they’re taking or treatment centers. Our new infusion of money is $20 million to go with what we had already.

Bash: You mentioned a previous plan that you put in place, a policy allowing first responders to commit people experiencing mental health crises without their consent.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Bash: You alluded to this.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Bash: It’s a pretty controversial approach and in your primary you said it would “demonize mentally ill people.” So is this about doing what’s best for people with mental illness or is it more about doing what’s best for people who encounter them on the streets of New York City?

Mayor Adams: And it was so important. The way it was reported really was distorted. We stated that the new methods we were using was clarity. We were going after those with serious mental health illnesses that couldn’t take care of their basic needs and were in danger to themselves. That is not the entire population, that’s a small targeted group, and it was inhumane to allow them to stay on the streets without proper care.

Bash: Can you actually just give a little bit of nuance there? So let’s say the police see somebody lying in the street in midtown wearing disheveled clothing, maybe mumbling to themselves, not necessarily bothering anyone. Will that person be taken in for treatment against their will?

Mayor Adams: No, that’s about a conversation that’s about building up trust. We see it every day in the subway system, on our streets. It’s about building up trust, may have to visit them more than once, giving them socks, clothing, food. But if that same person has a stick in their hand, a knife in their hand, they’re yelling, they’re screaming and unkept. They’re clothing are soiled, there’s something wrong. Now you don’t wait until that person pushes someone on the subway system and then be smart. No, we must be proactive to deal with this issue.

Bash: I want to talk about what happened in Chicago this week. Your friend, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, she had a pretty big loss in her reelection bid. You work closely together on a range of issues, particularly on questions of crime. That is an issue that dominated the election in Chicago. What is your takeaway from her loss?

Mayor Adams: Well, I think all of our big cities, I like to say we have three parties, Democratic, Republicans and mayors. Mayors, we’re the closest to the problems. And I stated on the campaign trail and in the city, public safety is a prerequisite to prosperity. Same as Chicago like New York and many of our big cities across America. That is why we’re zero focus, double-digit decrease in shootings, double-digit decrease in homicides. We have witnessed this year, particularly the month of February, all of our index crimes are low, low for the entire year. We are focused on public safety because people want to be saved. They don’t feel safe and they’re actually safe, then you’re going to lose control of your city.

Bash: Is what happened to her a warning sign for you here in New York?

Mayor Adams: To the contrary, I think it’s a warning sign for the country. Eric Adams has been talking about public safety, not only on the campaign trail but for the first year. I showed up at crime scenes. I knew what New Yorkers were saying and I saw it all over the country. I think if anything, it is really stating that this is what I have been talking about. America. We have to be safe.

Bash: The question sort of on the flip side of this is some of the data you talked about. NYPD shows that some crimes like assault and car theft rose slightly in February compared to other crime in the past. Overall crime is down here in New York City. But you also have people like former Congressman Mondaire Jones, who will actually be on the show later. He says that the rhetoric that you talk about a lot with regard to crime kind of feeds the narrative and helps Republicans make the point that there is too much crime and that hurts Democrats. Your response?

Mayor Adams: You know the difference between a comment like that and what I say, I listen to Americans and New Yorkers. The polls were clear. New Yorkers felt unsafe and the numbers show that they were unsafe. Now, if we want to ignore what the everyday public is stating, then that’s up to them. I’m on the subways, I walk the streets. I speak to everyday working class people and they were concerned about safety. We zeroed in on that, unprecedented historic numbers of felony arrests, removal of guns on our streets, closing homicide cases. We have a recidivism problem in New York and far too many people, there’s about 2,000 people who are repeatedly catch, release, repeat in crimes. If we don’t take them off our streets, they’re going to continue to prey on innocent people.

Bash: I wonder what… I know New York City and Washington, D.C. are very different because you have your own ability to rule here basically. D.C. has a situation where Congress can override a bill and it sounds like Republicans, sounds like the president might sign a Republican bill to override a new crime bill that the mayor and others in D.C. put in place. Do you think that that is the right way to approach it, given what you just said about sort of the mayors having a different job than everybody else?

Mayor Adams: The mayors have a unique job of… You know, people bump into the mayor, particularly a mayor like me on the streets and I…

Bash: Should the federal government stay out of the business of the D.C. government when it comes to crime?

Mayor Adams: Well, that’s the way our country operates and dealing with that is not up to me. I have to focus on how do I partner with my state lawmakers and my city council here to show them how imperative it is that we are safe.

Bash: I want to ask about some comments that you made at an interfaith breakfast this week. I want our viewers to listen to it.

Mayor Adams: Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body, church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies. I can’t separate my belief because I’m a elected official.

Bash: You also said you implement policies with a “godlike approach.” And said, “When we took prayers out of schools, gum guns came into schools.” You know that those comments alarmed some people, even some religious leaders who were in the room. A rabbi who was there called it dangerous.

Mayor Adams: Well, listen, let’s be clear on something. The last words I said after I was sworn in is, so help me God. On our dollar bill, we have, in God we trust. Every president touched a religious book when they were sworn in except for three. Faith is who I am and anyone who takes those words are stating that I’m going to try to compel people to follow my religion. No, I’m a child of God. I believe that holy, I’m going to follow the law. I’m not going to compel people who believe in whatever faith. It could be if you are in a synagogue, a baptist church, a Buddhist temple, I’m in all of them, and that’s what was in my service.

Bash: Just to be clear, do you fundamentally believe in the separation of church and state from a governing standpoint?

Mayor Adams: No, what  I believe is that you cannot separate your faith. Government should not interfere with religion, and religion should not interfere with government. But I believe my faith pushes me forward on how I govern and the things that I do.

Bash: Yeah, understandable. But one of the fundamentals of the Constitution is a separation of church and state when it comes to governing. When I just asked you that, you said, no. That’s going to alarm some people.

Mayor Adams: No, but this is what I’m saying. I want to be very clear on this so this won’t be distorted.

Bash: Yes please. Exactly.

Mayor Adams: Government should not interfere with religion, religion should not interfere with government. That can’t happen and it should never happen. But my faith is how I carry out the practices that I do and the policy, such as helping people who are homeless, such as making sure that we show compassion in what we do in our city. Government should never be in religion, religion should never be in government. And I hope I’m very clear on that.

Bash: You are. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you.

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