Gun violence bills look to help victims while wounds are fresh
Aiming to save lives and money, a package of bills introduced in the New Jersey Legislature creates a system that supporters hope would put an end to a "revolving door" of gunshot injuries at hospitals throughout the Garden State.
Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden) expects his six-bill package to be fast-tracked. He said it's already received comments of support from individual hospitals.
The legislation would align New Jersey with a national trend of creating hospital-based violence intervention programs for trauma incidents related to gun violence. The programs would provide intense counseling, case management, and social services to those recovering from gunshot wounds or other violent injuries.
The measures also pave the way for professionals to engage with gunshot victims in the community following a firearm incident, and require Medicaid to cover professional violence prevention counseling services.
"Many hospitals see a 'revolving door' of gunshot injuries, as patients who have been shot are at a very high risk of being violently reinjured and committing violent acts themselves," Greenwald said. "Making counseling a critical part of the services a patient receives may be just the prescription needed to save lives and discourage recidivism and the use of retaliatory violence."
States already making this investment have seen impressive returns, Greenwald noted. In Massachusetts, he said, these practices have cut the rate of gun homicide in half among African-American residents, over six years.
Nationally, homicide remains one of the leading causes of death among individuals aged 15 to 34. Five cities in New Jersey account for more than half of the state's total number of homicides.
"Each day, too many families in New Jersey wake up expecting to hear the sound of gunfire — and live with the constant fear of losing a loved one," said Mike McLively with Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "Underserved areas are reeling from gun violence that is overwhelmingly concentrated in communities of color."
A report released by the Center in April found gun violence runs the Garden State $3.3 billion per year in healthcare and other costs.