TRENTON – Adding to the mission of the Study Commission on Violence that would be created to find ways to mitigate violence, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak’s bill declaring violence a public health crisis and establishing the study commission was amended on Monday to include domestic violence.
Working with his Assembly colleagues, Lesniak (D-Union) had his bill, S-2430, amended by the Assembly Budget Committee to add an expert on domestic violence and battered women to the panel that would study the causes of violent behavior, including the role of mental illness, and identify ways to mitigate what has become a “culture of violence that is claiming too many victims,” Lesniak said.
“Domestic violence has been a partially-hidden crisis that has left victims battered and afraid and often ends in tragedy,” said Lesniak. “We can no longer turn a blind eye to violence in the home just as we can no longer ignore violence on the streets, in our communities, the media or anywhere else. We need to take a multi-pronged approach to violence reduction and it should include domestic violence.”
Lesniak’s bill, which is also sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner, (D-Mercer), would declare violence a public health crisis in New Jersey, opening up the possibility of using funds from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mitigate the crisis. The bill would recommend the expansion of the use of involuntary out-treatment commitments and mental health courts to treat mental health issues before they erupt into violence and divert mentally ill offenders to court-mandated treatment. It would also establish a Study Commission on Violence to make policy recommendations to reduce violence in the Garden State, such as the expansion to all counties of the special mental illness unit established in the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and adequate funding for community-based mental health treatment programs throughout the state.
According to the New Jersey State Police, there were 70,311 reported cases of domestic violence in New Jersey in 2011, including 40 murders. Because so many incidents often go unreported, these figures, as bad as they are, would have to be multiplied to calculate the true dimensions of the problem, Lesniak said.
Part of the comprehensive gun safety initiative, the bill was approved by the Senate on May 13 and sent to the Assembly.
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