Rep. Cori Bush Introduces Bill That Would Have Social Workers Diffuse Crises Instead Of Cops
"Calling 911 too often becomes a death sentence," the congresswoman said while announcing the legislative proposal.
June 30, 2021 at 3:13 pm
The legislation seeks to limit citizen's encounters with armed law enforcement officers and instead, will send social workers to certain incidents as a viable alternative.
The People’s Response Act would establish the Division of Community Safety under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill calls for the hiring of 50,000 non-police first responders who would be trained to respond to situations that are rooted in substance abuse problems or mental health. The bill proposes to spend $10 billion over the next five years and would offer grants to local organizations and states that make public health a priority in their approach to crime.
When announcing the bill on Twitter, the congresswoman stated that "calling 911 too often becomes a death sentence."
When people in crisis need help, calling 911 too often becomes a death sentence.
We demand a better way forward. It’s time to respond by transforming our approach to public safety.
I’m introducing The People’s Response Act.
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) June 28, 2021
The legislation would provide an additional $7.5 billion in grants that would fund “crisis response” programs that aim to limit involvement with the court system and interactions with law enforcement. Also, the bill includes jail diversion and work training programs, community-led conflict intervention and de-escalation training, housing assistance and other educational programs.
Bush, who worked as a mental health nurse for more than 10 years and as a pastor before entering politics, believes that mental health and public safety are interrelated.
"Public safety is a public health issue. It’s time our approach reflects that,” Bush said. “The People’s Response Act will transform public safety into a system of care rather than criminalization, healing rather than incarceration, and prevention rather than policing. We are safer when our communities are well funded, our people are healthy and housed, and our children have nutritious meals, excellent schools, and green spaces to play in."
Bush said the program “will transform public safety into a system of care rather than criminalization, healing rather than incarceration, and prevention rather than policing.”
“For far too long, our current carceral, misguided approach has had devastating effects, particularly for young people and people living with disabilities and communities of color,” Bush said in an interview with the Post-Dispatch.
“Those lives could have been saved with a different policy decision, and different choices, different investments,” she continued.
As Blavity previously reported, Bush launched into the national spotlight as a Ferguson activist in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown at the hands of police. Last year, she unseated Democratic incumbent William Lacy Clay, becoming the first Black woman ever to represent Missouri in Congress.
The “People’s Response Act” has been endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Along with Bush, three other Democratic representatives, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, and Pramila Jayapal of Washington, are co-sponsors on the bill.