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Backing for bill that would fund community crisis response teams


The bill would also establish a Community Crisis Response Advisory Council


In the wake of the police shooting in Paterson of Najee Seabrooks three months ago while he was experiencing a mental health crisis, there have been sustained calls for changes in approaches to policing.


Assemblyman William Spearman (D-Camden) is a prime sponsor of a bill that would create a pilot program to put state funding behind existing community crisis response teams — organizations like the Paterson Healing Collective and the Newark Community Street Team — that respond to a mental health crisis much differently than police do. The bill would appropriate $10 million to establish a Community Crisis Response Advisory Council and crisis response teams to be piloted in Camden, Essex, Middlesex, Mercer and Passaic counties. The bill passed committee earlier this month.


The bill has the support of faith leaders around the state.


“The reason I love this bill is because it allows for our community to be the first responders in essence, those that are trained. And because the bill [is] resourced to be able to address mental health challenges as they arise, that lead to crisis moments, from folks that have the training to do it. Police officers just aren’t trained nor have that level, nor should they be with all the responsibility they already have to take care of,” said Rev. Timothy Levi Adkins-Jones of Bethany Baptist Church in Newark.


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