Have You Heard About the People’s Response Act? Here’s What You Need to Know

September 20, 2021

The People's Response Act is a roadmap to transforming policing and public safety.

The People’s Response Act (PRA) is legislation, sponsored by Representative Cori Bush and supported by dozens of organizations, that focuses on a health-based and inclusive approach to public safety. By investing in communities and ensuring that unarmed experts, rather than police, respond to mental health and substance use crises, it will strengthen our communities and save lives.

A majority of Americans believe that something has to be done to change our system of policing. With its origins in white supremacy and slave patrols, American policing is violent, racist, ineffective, and punitive—it wasn’t built to ensure, and cannot guarantee, the health, safety, and well-being of all Americans. Together with a criminal legal system that criminalizes poverty and Black and Brown people, policing is tearing communities and families apart.

If passed, the PRA will help heal our communities and build equitable systems of care. Here’s everything you need to know.

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Public Safety = Public Health

“Public safety is a public health issue. It’s time our approach reflects that.”

- Congresswoman Cori Bush, lead sponsor of the People’s Response Act

Policing can’t be reformed. We’ve tried reforming the police for decades and it hasn’t worked. We need a new approach, an approach rooted in respect, dignity, and caring, an approach based in the belief that public safety is a matter of public health. Americans, and Black and Brown people in particular, have lost faith in a violent system that sees arresting people and locking them up as the answer to every challenge facing our communities.

Here’s what the People’s Response Act proposes to do instead:

  • Create a new public safety division within the Department of Health and Human Services to fund and coordinate research, technical assistance, and grant programs related to non-carceral, health-centered investments in public safety.
  • Launch a federal first responders unit that will support states and local governments with emergency health crises.
  • Research alternative approaches to public safety, including coordination of research and policies that are being implemented across HHS and other agencies to center health-based and non-carceral responses throughout the federal government.
  • Provide $7.5 billion in grant funding to state and local governments, as well as community-based organizations, to fully fund public safety and improve crisis response.
  • Establish a $2.5 billion First Responder Hiring Grant to create thousands of jobs and provide funding to state, local, and tribal governments, as well as community organizations, to hire emergency first responders, such as licensed social workers, mental health counselors, substance use counselors, and peer support specialists. These experts will help improve crisis response and increase non-carceral, health-based approaches to public safety.


Why We Need Change

We lock up more people than any country on earth. Our prisons and jails are overflowing and an entire industry has cropped up to exploit both the people behind bars and their families on the outside. And none of it has made us any safer.

But when we talk about public safety, it’s critical that we talk about public health—especially mental health. Since 2015, nearly 25% of people killed by police are known to have been struggling with a mental health issue. There is no reason for these people to die.

People experiencing a mental health crisis are 16x more likely than the average American to be killed by police. Our neighbors, friends, and family members deserve better. Our communities deserve better.

Take Action Now!

Tell Congress to Support the People's Response Act

What the PRA Will Do

Police officers—militarized, armed, primed for conflict—are not trained behavioral, medical, or mental health experts. We know what results when they respond to health crises: too often, it’s violence and death.

The People’s Response Act will send unarmed, licensed professionals, not police, to help people experiencing a health-related crisis. Eugene, Oregon, has been running a successful program for decades that does just that, and other cities around the country are beginning to follow suit.

The PRA will also provide funding for communities to invest in preventive care, which will give people struggling with mental illness, substance use disorders, and other health issues the support they need to be healthy and avoid a crisis in the first place.


Black Lives Matter

By centering historically underserved communities of color, and limiting police interactions with those communities, the PRA will save lives.

The huge majority—80%—of the millions of arrests that police make every year are for low-level, nonviolent infractions. (And research shows that Black people are way more likely to be arrested than white people.) In fact, the presence of police alone is often responsible for escalating a minor incident into a more serious interaction. By sending in unarmed experts to deal with health crises—and even more importantly, by providing the resources communities need to offer preventive care—the PRA will improve public safety and help prevent police violence.


Healthy Communities Help People Thrive

“We are safer when our communities are well funded, our people are healthy and housed, and our children have nutritious meals, excellent schools, and green spaces to play in.”

- Congresswoman Cori Bush

We’re healthier and safer when we invest in our communities, which is why, in addition to everything else, the People’s Response Act will also help fund grassroots organizations working to do things like create affordable housing, fight economic injustice, and address social inequities. This is what true public safety looks like—it’s about creating a world where people can live their best lives.

The PRA provides a new vision of public safety in America, one that rejects incarceration and criminalization and instead promotes security, well-being, and joy. Every single person in this country, no matter what they look like or where they live, deserves dignity, respect, safety, and the opportunity to thrive.

Contact your representative and tell them to support the People’s Response Act today.

Take Action Now!

Tell Congress to Support the People's Response Act