Photo Credit: State of NJ, CERT Office of Emergency Management

By a vote of 21-14, the New Jersey Senate on Monday approved legislation to establish community crisis response teams.  The bill, referred to as the “Seabrooks-Washington Bill,” was co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Teresa Ruiz of Newark, whose district includes a portion of western Hudson County, and former Assemblywoman, now Senator-Elect Angela McKnight of Jersey City.

Specifically, the legislation establishes a Community Crisis Response Advisory Council and a community crisis response teams’ pilot program.  It designates the “Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act,” while appropriating $12 million.

The New Jersey Violence Intervention & Prevention Statewide Coalition (NJVIP Coalition), which brings together frontline interventionists, prevention specialists, and national partners to advocate for and promote responses to violence that center the needs and wisdom of our communities, issued the following statement today following the Senate’s vote:

“The passage of this bill gets us on the path to approaching mental health crises differently and preventing tragic losses like those we have suffered with Najee Seabrooks, Andrew Washington and countless others. Cities across New Jersey will now have resources and training to address mental health crises through healing and care by community-led first response pilots. Community-led response teams are more effective in interrupting violence, limiting unnecessary and harmful interaction between police and Black communities. The passage of this bill is an investment in healthier and safer communities in New Jersey.”

More than 1,200 people were killed by police nationally during 2022.  Jim Sullivan, Deputy Policy Director at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, recently stated, “Alarming statistics like this call for transformational change in the way we handle mental health crises in New Jersey, and this bill does just that. This pilot program will begin to treat mental health crises as a public health issue, rather than leaving it to the criminal legal system that is not designed to properly handle mental health crises.”

The measure now heads to Governor Phil Murphy’s desk for his signature.