Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) worked more than 10 years as a mental health nurse in St. Louis. She saw the disproportionate share of police violence her patients with bipolar disorder or paranoid schizophrenia would have to endure.
To limit their encounters with law enforcement, Bush introduced a bill yesterday, the People’s Response Act, that would instead fund community programs led by health officials, to respond to mental health emergencies, rather than police.
“Public safety is a public health issue. It’s time our approach reflects that,” said Bush. “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.”
The People’s Response Act would create a new public safety division within the Department of Health and Human Services that would call upon nonpolice first responders for emergency situations stemming from mental health issues, substance use or other health complications.
The division is also tasked with funding and coordinating research and offering grant programs related to health-centered investments in public safety.
“The People’s Response Act is transformative legislation that puts us on the path toward achieving our full vision of safety for all Black people,” said Kayla Reed, Executive Director of Action St. Louis in a press release. “It moves us toward a shared vision of what truly keeps Black people safe: dramatic investments in communities that have suffered from generations of systemic racism and economic exploitation, incentives for local governments to adopt critical non-carceral practices, and the creation of a federal community safety agency to make the critical link between public safety and public health.”
Three other Democratic representatives, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, and Pramila Jayapal of Washington, are co-sponsors on the bill.