(TRENTON) – Taking another step forward in the fight to prevent gun violence in the state, three legislative measures that will work to stem gun violence by putting much needed attention on mental health and counseling needs of gun violence victims, were signed into law Monday.

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

 “While acts of mass gun violence continue to pervade in communities throughout the country, most recently this weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, we are taking action to in New Jersey to prevent these atrocities from recurring by signing these three measures,” said Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “Today we stand by the experts and professionals on the frontlines who understand that a coordinated effort between all major stakeholders is the best way to tackle the physical and mental health trauma inflicted by gun violence. With these new laws, we are placing our focus on community and hospital-based prevention services which will be key to improving safety in our communities.”  

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“Today, we back the many professionals on the frontlines who understand a coordinated effort is the best way to tackle public health problems of mental health and gun violence,” Greenwald said. “Today we place the focus on community and hospital-based prevention services as the key to improving safety in our communities.”

“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 to ending gun violence in our communities.”

Acknowledging the immense role access to mental health care plays in prevention, the new laws 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.

Specifically, the new laws in the package would:

  • establish the “Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program Initiative’ in the Department of Human Services (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 (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 (A-4802) (Greenwald, Reynolds-Jackson, Benson); and

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.”

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.