U.S. Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri has introduced the People's Response Act, legislation that would invest in a health-centered approach to public safety by establishing a new agency within Health and Human Services, the Division of Community Safety.

In Bush's words, it would remodel “public safety into a system of care rather than criminalization, healing rather than incarceration, and prevention rather than policing.”

More than $2 billion would establish grants to fund state, local, and tribal governments, in addition to community organizations. The money would also go to hire and train licensed social workers, mental health and substance-abuse counselors, and peer support specialists as emergency first responders.

Billions more would go to state and local governments and community-based organizations to fund crisis-response programs that would limit interactions with police and the courts, including community-led conflict intervention and de-escalation, jail diversion, work training, and housing assistance.

Duluth may embark on a similar trajectory with a Eugene, Oregon, CAHOOTS-style model which has been proposed under the name “Community Crisis Response.” Many 911 calls could be diverted from the police department to a community-led team of health professionals, a significant step toward ending over-policing and providing care, not criminalization.

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This new federal legislation has too long been a necessity and deserves all of our support. Two U.S. representatives from Minnesota are already co-sponsors, Ilhan Omar and Betty McCollum. The Duluth NAACP, Twin Ports Democratic Socialists, Duluth Community Safety Initiative, Duluth Law Enforcement Accountability Network, city of Duluth, St. Louis County, and a growing number of community and faith-based organizations are supporting a similar, local non-carceral first-responder model.

It can only help us locally to support this national parallel effort, the People's Response Act.

Kristine Osbakken


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