To combat gun violence, N.J. awards $20M to hospitals for intervention programs

Governor Phil Murphy, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords announce the first recipients of grant funding for hospital-based violence intervention programs at the Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center in Jersey City on January 29, 2020. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor's Office)

Governor Phil Murphy, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords announce the first recipients of grant funding for hospital-based violence intervention programs at the Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center in Jersey City on January 29, 2020. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor's Office)

New Jersey will begin trying to stem the tide of gun violence at a new place: hospitals.

State officials announced Wednesday they were awarding $20 million in federal grant money to nine hospitals to create new violence intervention programs.

“These programs change the current ‘treat-and-release’ policies,” N.J. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. “Policies that have forced hospitals to discharge vulnerable victims back into the same environment in which they were injured.”

The funding went to hospitals in cities with some of the highest murder rates in the state, including Camden, Trenton and Newark. Other awardees included hospitals in Elizabeth, Atlantic City, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Neptune and Paterson.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the hospitals will offer a range of services to victims — who may also be perpetrators, officials said — with the goal of intervening before the next violent crime.

“It means substance abuse treatment,” Murphy said. “It means things like tattoo removal, so people can quite literally begin life with a cleaner slate.”

On hand for the announcement in Jersey City was former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 and later became an advocate for gun control.

Giffords praised the state’s latest attempt to combat gun crime and said reducing gun violence should be a nonpartisan issue.

“Now is the time to come together, be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting,” she said. “Fight, fight, fight!”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal