New Jersey Cannabis Funds Used for Hospital-Based Intervention Services

October 4, 2023 · High Times

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced in a press release that $5.5 million in cannabis tax funds will be going toward New Jersey Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program (NJHVIP).

The money comes directly from the state’s Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Fund. According to state law, cannabis tax funds consist of money that comes from cannabis taxes and fees to fund a variety of community services and programs.

The NJHVIP is managed by the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance (VIVA) by way of the Office of Violence Intervention and Prevention. VIVA was initially established by Platkin in September 2022 “with the goal of elevating and formalizing violence intervention and victim services work within the Department of Law and Public Safety.”

“Through the New Jersey Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program, our Administration is making progress on our commitment to creating a safer state for all New Jerseyans,” said Murphy in a press release. “These innovative violence intervention programs allow providers to tend to vulnerable victims of violent crimes in the early days of their road to recovery in order to break the patterns of violence that have tragically taken the lives of too many New Jerseyans. We will continue to do what we can to support this work to prevent and overcome violence in our communities across the state.” 

“New Jersey’s Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs are essential aspects of our comprehensive approach to public safety, and they empower communities to interrupt cycles of victimization and violence,” said Platkin. “Under Governor Murphy’s leadership, we are continuing our historic investment in NJHVIPs by making available $5.5 million for these innovative services. Through this funding, we are making clear that we will use every tool and resource available to combat gun violence and violent crime that affects too many of our communities.”

VIVA executive director, Patricia Teffenhart, also expressed the importance of the NJHVIP. “Our NJHVIP partners are a key part of Attorney General Platkin’s trauma-informed, survivor-centered commitment to building safer, more resilient communities in New Jersey,” Teffenhart said. “By bringing together medical and community-based violence intervention teams that put victims at the center of service, their work supports the kind of healing that helps put victims on the road to recovery and a path to safety.”

The press release explained that hospital-based violence intervention programs like NJHVIP help support victims of crime through unified teams of “hospital clinicians, social workers, case managers, violence interventionists, and community health workers.” Services such as crisis intervention, victim compensation, and more, all serve people in need, and the $5.5 million being granted will help fund these services.

The New Jersey Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program began in January 2020 with funds from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) program. New Jersey was one of the first states to implement a program with VOCA funds.

It began with nine hospital partnerships, including Center for Family Services, Trinitas Health Foundation, AtlantiCare, Capital Health, Jersey City Medical Center, RWJ University Hospital, University Hospital, Jersey Shore University Medical Center/Hackensack Meridian, and St. Joseph’s Health. By January 2023, the number increased to 11.

During his time as governor since 2018, Murphy has helped send $45 million in federal and state funding to various NJHVIP sites. In August 2023, the NJHVIP’s third year of operation, $15 million was earmarked for violence prevention services through the use of the same cannabis fund, including guidance for at-risk youth as well as street intervention services. “For far too long, pockets of our state have been scarred by violence. And, since day one of our Administration, we have been committed to solving this problem,” Murphy said last month. “Through initiatives such as the [CBVI] Programs, we have made great strides on that pledge. I am incredibly grateful for Attorney General Platkin and his team’s steadfast dedication to reducing violence in our state and creating a safer community for all.”

The $5.5 million from the cannabis tax fund for this year will be granted starting in 2024. Organizations that seek to apply for NJHVIP grants can do so by Oct. 18, 2023. According to the Notice of Availability of Funds, applicants may apply for no more than $995,000 per project. A webinar was held on Sept. 29 for interested applicants, but those who did not originally attend on that day can check out a recording of the meeting when it’s published online on Oct. 3.

In news of other community services, three New Jersey attorneys (Andrew Cooper, Michael Hoffman, and John Williams) recently held an expungement service event at the 420 Expo, which was held between Sept. 29-Oct. 1. The “stigma-free celebration of the legal cannabis lifestyle” was host to more than 100 vendors, and also included educational seminars and appearances from celebrity Cheech Marin. “The so-called war on drugs has been particularly hard on minority and low-income communities, and although studies show white, brown, and Black people use cannabis equally, Black and brown people were nearly four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis violations,” Cooper explained. “Despite laws designed to assist these communities, the individuals affected most are also least able to benefit due to a lack of access to information and support. The Expungement Clinics at 420 Expo are intended to provide the kind of meaningful access to information otherwise sorely lacking in society.” (Full Story)

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