Dear members of Congress:
The current approach to public safety is not working for children, for families, and particularly for Black and brown communities that have been devastated by mental health crises, substance use health crises, and criminalization. We must reimagine our public safety system’s instinct to criminalize and replace it with an instinct to be thoughtful, strategic, and rooted in providing appropriate care and response.
We have an important opportunity to do that with the introduction of the The People’s Response Act. This important piece of legislation emphasizes an inclusive, holistic, and health-centered approach to public safety by creating a public safety division within the Department of Human Health and Services. Communities and experts agree that public safety is a matter of public health. When we adopt new evidence based approaches to public safety that are equitable, health-centered, and preventative in efforts to stop violence and harm before it occurs we subsequently ensure that responses to crisis in community are appropriate and that every community has what it needs to flourish.
The People’s Response Act takes works to achieve this by:
- Creating a new public safety division within the Department of Health and Human Services to fund and coordinate research, technical assistance, and grant programs related to non-carceral, health-centered investments in public safety;
- Launching a federal first responders unit that will support states and local governments with emergency health crises;
- Research alternative approaches to public safety, including coordination of research and policies that are being implemented across HHS and other agencies to center health-based and non-carceral responses throughout the federal government;
- Providing $7.5 billion in grant funding to state and local governments, as well as community-based organizations, to fully fund public safety and improve crisis response;
- Establishing a $2.5 billion First Responder Hiring Grant to create thousands of jobs and provide funding to state, local, and tribal government, as well as community organizations, to hire emergency first responders such as licensed social workers, mental health counselors, substance use counselors, and peer support specialists, in an effort to improve crisis response and increase non-carceral, health-based approaches to public safety.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial for Congress to step up and support new inclusive, holistic, and health-centered approaches to dealing with crises that will reduce harm and truly keep our communities safe. State, local, and tribal governments across the country are already implementing innovative strategies to prevent violence, reduce harm, and improve the wellbeing of every community, especially Black and brown communities.
The People’s Response Act provides the resources and assistance to scale up these efforts and truly transform public safety in the United States. It would reframe how we think about and respond to crisis situations in this country with an approach that meets the demands and needs of our communities and this moment.
I welcome your support on this much needed legislation.