Assembly Five-Bill Package Bolstering Trauma Treatment in Hospitals, Effort to Stem Gun Violence throughout NJ Clears Full Assembly

Moving forward on actions to prevent gun violence in the state, six legislative measures that will work to stem gun violence by engaging patients in the hospital, during their recovery and in the community following a firearm incident, putting much needed attention on mental health and counseling needs of gun violence victims, will now go to the Senate for further consideration.

The measures are sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Eliana Pintor Marin, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Gordon Johnson, Dan Benson and Carol Murphy.

“In very recent weeks, we’ve seen acts of mass gun violence in two major U.S. cities, Virginia Beach and our own state capitol claim too many lives and left numerous injured,” said Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “How do we help prevent these acts from recurring again and again by individuals who believe gun violence or any violence is the answer to a problem? Many who are on the frontlines believe a coordinated effort is the best way to tackle public health problems of mental health and violence. Community and hospital-based prevention services is the key to improving safety in our communities.”

Nationally, homicide remains one of the leading causes of death among youth and young adults ages 15 to 34. Recurrent violence-related trauma accounts for up to 45 percent of all hospital trauma admissions. In some urban hospitals, up to 45 percent of patients treated for violent injuries like gunshot wounds are re-injured within a five year period following discharge.

“Increasing access to mental health services for victims of gun violence will help those affected by it in their communities,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “Counseling is a critical part of the services patients should receive in order to help discourage continued violence.”

Acknowledging the immense role access to mental health care plays in prevention, the bill package would align New Jersey with a national trend of developing hospital-based violence intervention programs in the hospitals that handle trauma incidents related to gun violence.

Hospital Violence Intervention Programs (HVIP) would provide intensive counseling, case management, and social services to patients who are recovering from gunshot wounds or other violent injuries.

“In Trenton, we understand the impact that gun violence has on a community every day. We see permanent effects of retaliatory behavior and the need to help hospitals close the revolving door of gunshot victims as a result,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Getting to survivors before they leave our hospitals is paramount to decreasing violence happening on our streets. Tying hospital-based prevention programs with community programs is the key.”

Specifically, the bills in the package would:

  • establish the “Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program Initiative’ in the Department of Human Services (A-4806) (Greenwald, Reynolds-Jackson, Benson); 77-0-0.
  • require the Victim of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) to partner with trauma centers to provide referrals for trauma victims (A-4805) (Greenwald, Johnson, Murphy); 77-0-0.
  • authorize certain entities providing counseling services to firearm and stabbing injury crime victims to directly bill the Victims of Crime Compensation Agency for counseling services (A-4803) (Greenwald, Johnson, Pintor Marin); 77-0-0.
  • mandate Level One or Level Tow trauma centers provide hospital-based or hospital-linked violence intervention programs for firearm or stabbing related injuries (A-4802) (Greenwald, Reynolds-Jackson, Benson); 76-0-0 and
  • establishes the New Jersey Violence Intervention program for the purpose of saving lives by investing in effective, evidence-based violence initiatives focused on the highest-risk individuals in communities disproportionately impacted by community violence, particularly firearm violence (A-4801) (Greenwald, Pintor Marin, Reynolds-Jackson) 73-0-3.

Multiple case studies and controlled trials have shown that HVIPs are highly effective at reducing patients’ rates of violence and re-injury. Reducing the likelihood that patients will be re-hospitalized or will perpetrate violence in the future has also contributed to a substantial cost savings in health care in the long run.

“Even police officers are debriefed after engaging in fire. This goes a long way in making sure they are mentally able to return to the field,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Gun violence survivors should have access to this type of mental health care in counseling. Helping one person this way can save many others.”

“Many are unaware they can receive help and where to go to obtain it,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “We need to be there for them at the moment it happens in order to have a long-term effect on their lives. Connecting hospital-based intervention programs and community-based programs will help put an end to the cycle of violence.”

“Silencing gun violence will require a multi-faceted legislative approach,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “A part of this is bridging the efforts of hospital- based programs and community programs. With these steps, we continue the fight to make our communities safer.”