New Jersey Advances Pioneering Community Crisis Response Legislation

By a decisive vote of 21-14, the New Jersey Senate on Monday took a monumental step forward by approving legislation to establish community crisis response teams. Named the “Seabrooks-Washington Bill,” after the tragic losses of Najee Seabrooks and Andrew Washington, the bill was co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Teresa Ruiz of Newark and Senator-Elect Angela McKnight of Jersey City.

This groundbreaking legislation seeks to form a Community Crisis Response Advisory Council and initiate a pilot program for community crisis response teams. The bill, now officially the “Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act,” comes with a significant financial commitment, appropriating $12 million to its cause.

The New Jersey Violence Intervention & Prevention Statewide Coalition (NJVIP Coalition), a prominent advocate for community-centered violence response, lauded the Senate’s vote, recognizing it as a crucial step in reimagining mental health crisis management. They highlighted the potential of this bill to prevent tragedies like those of Seabrooks and Washington, emphasizing the effectiveness of community-led teams in reducing harmful police interactions, particularly in Black communities.

In 2022 alone, over 1,200 individuals were fatally encountered by police nationwide, a statistic that Jim Sullivan, Deputy Policy Director at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, described as alarming. He asserts that this bill represents a transformative change, shifting the handling of mental health crises from the criminal legal system to a public health framework.

As the bill now awaits Governor Phil Murphy’s signature, it stands as a beacon of hope for a more compassionate, community-driven approach to crisis response in New Jersey. This initiative could set a precedent for other states to follow, marking a significant shift in how mental health crises are addressed at the community level.