Moving forward on actions to prevent gun violence in the state, five legislative measures working 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 – have all been signed into law. The final bill in the package was signed into law Tuesday.
The measures are sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Eliana Pintor Marin, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Gordon Johnson, Daniel Benson and Carol Murphy.
“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 leave numerous injured,” said Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “If we’re going to address this gun violence epidemic, we have to turn our attention to the violence that rarely makes the headlines, yet its impact is the same. We know that evidence-based violence intervention programs, like the one at University Hospital in Newark, can be an effective tool to combat gun violence. By investing in the New Jersey Violence Intervention Program, we can support victims and help those most at risk to break the cycle of gun violence.”
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, these laws will 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) will 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.”
The bill signed into law Tuesday, sponsored by Greenwald, Johnson and Pintor Marin (A-4803), authorizes certain entities providing counseling services to firearm and stabbing injury crime victims to directly bill the Victims of Crime Compensation Agency for counseling services.
The other bills in the package that were previously signed into law:
- Establish the “Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program Initiative’ in the Department of Human Services (formerly bill A-4806) (Greenwald, Reynolds-Jackson, Benson);
- Require the Victim of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) to partner with trauma centers to provide referrals for trauma victims (formerly bill A-4805) (Greenwald, Johnson, Murphy);
- Mandate Level One or Level Tow trauma centers provide hospital-based or hospital-linked violence intervention programs for firearm or stabbing related injuries (formerly bill A-4802) (Greenwald, Reynolds-Jackson, Benson); and
- Establish 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 (formerly bill A-4801) (Greenwald, Pintor Marin, Reynolds-Jackson).
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.”