In light of killings of Seabrooks & Washington, N.J. Senate OKs $12M for advisory council


In light of Najee Seabrooks, of Paterson, and Andrew Washington, of Jersey City, being killed by local police while experiencing a mental episode, the New Jersey Senate voted 21-14 to allocate $12 million towards a Community Crisis Response Advisory Council.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“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,” the New Jersey Violence Intervention and Prevention said in a statement.

“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.”

Bill A-4250, also known as the “Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis
Response Act” and sponsored by state Senators Teresa Ruiz (D-29) and Jim Beach (D-6), calls for a 13-member panel under the Department of Law and Public Safety.

This would include the deputy commissioner of Public Health Services, the assistant commissioner of the Division of HIV, STD and TB Services, and the director of Emergency Medical Services in the state Department of Health and the attorney general.

The governor would also select seven members of the public, with two recommendations coming from the assembly speaker and then another two from the senate president.

“The seven public members would consist of one or more members who: have prior involvement with the criminal justice system; have expertise in crisis response, harm reduction services, or both; have experience advocating for their communities; and
represent New Jersey-based social justice and civil rights organizations specializing in criminal justice reform,” the legislation says.

The bill, which now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) desk, requires Attorney General Matt Platkin “to establish a pilot program in Camden, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, and
Passaic Counties to permit eligible municipalities and community-based organizations to operate community crisis response teams.”

“Under the bill, a community crisis response team is defined as a team that provides professional on-site community-based intervention such as outreach, de-escalation, stabilization, resource connection, and follow-up support for individuals who are
experiencing a behavioral health crisis, including certified peer counselors as a best practice to the extent practicable.”

Furthermore, the bill says that eligible municipalities and community organizations can receive up to $2 million annually per applicant.

Washington, who had a history of mental illness, was fatally shot by a Jersey City police officer in his apartment on August 27th in the midst of an episode where he brandished a knife.

While the AG’s office released some police body camera footage of the fatal incident in September, both the city and Washington’s family have said additional video exists and have called for it to be released as well.

The incident led to protests and lengthly public comments at city council meetings, with several demanding police reforms and more emphasis on responding to mental health crises.

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