March 10, 2023 — “We join the Paterson, New Jersey community and our partners at Black Lives Matter Paterson in mourning the horrific loss of Najee Seabrooks last week. This tragedy is yet another example of the violence wrought against Black communities through systems putting contral and weapons in the hands of law enforcement instead of resources and services in the hands of community leaders and public health. While the details are still to come, what is clear is that on March 3, 2023, a mental health crisis precipitated the arrival and entry by police to Najee’s home, and ended in a fatal shooting.”
“We know that the stigmatization and criminalization of behavioral and mental health needs has shaped a systemic response that is controlling, coercive, and punitive, and has driven health solutions to the margins. We know that this response results in inexcusably disproportionate rates of violenceagainst Black people in comparison to their white neighbors. At best, these shortcomings and inequalities are a shameful indictment of how this country addresses the health and social needs of Black communities. At worst, these patterns are a reflection of policies deliberately designed to produce violence against Black people.”
“Ending punitive practices and promoting supportive systems are goals shared by those of us focused on drug overdose and our close colleagues working on mental health. We share policy and practice goals with our colleagues in this field, and we share the struggle of witnessing communities systematically denied compassionate and effective responses. We see again and again that drug use, mental health, and so many other neglected needs in Black communities are addressed with the deployment of police.”
“Public health needs demand a community-centered, health-based response, not police action. We are privileged to work with Black Lives Matter Paterson and our other New Jersey partners to drive change towards community-led responses to drug use and behavioral health needs, and away from violence and punishment. We mourn Najee’s loss not only as a tragedy in the news, but as a direct loss to the Paterson community. We stand with our New Jersey partners in our commitment to seeking just, health-based, supportive responses to community needs and demanding an end to the racially motivated systems of control and punishment that contributed to Najee Seabrooks’ death.”
About Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies believes every person should be protected by an equitable and effective public health system. We partner with governments, communities and organizations around the world to reimagine public health so that health is supported in all the places we live, work and play. The result is millions of people living longer, healthier lives.
Tony Newman: firstname.lastname@example.org; 646-335-5384
Gloria Malone: email@example.com