WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Preventing and Addressing Trauma with Health Services (PATHS) Act to fund mental health services for individuals impacted by gun violence. Gun violence kills nearly 40,000 people each year in the United States, and Black and Hispanic communities are disproportionately impacted. While Congress continues to work to fund community violence intervention and prevention measures, there is more work to do to help those who are processing the trauma that comes from experiencing violence in their neighborhoods. 

Exposure to gun violence can have significant detrimental mental health effects. One recent study found that children who live within two or three blocks of a shooting were significantly more likely to show up at their local emergency room with mental health-related symptoms within weeks. Other research suggests that exposure to violent events can cause trauma and lasting impacts to the nervous system in both children and adults, resulting in health and behavioral impacts like increased rates of anxiety, withdrawal, anger, depression, stress, and impulse control. To address this, the PATHS Act would authorize $100 million annually over the next five years for grants to eligible organizations to increase access to evidence-based and trauma-informed mental health services in communities with high levels of gun violence.

“Gun violence has a complex web of causes and impacts, and our communities can only begin to heal from its consequences if we prioritize and invest in mental health services,” said Senator Coons. “As Congress continues to work to prevent gun violence and address its root causes, we have an obligation to consider how best to support those traumatized by community violence. With this legislation, we can uplift members of our communities living with violence, trauma, and adverse conditions in their homes and neighborhoods, and begin to help these individuals heal.”

“As we address the need for quality, common-sense gun safety measures, it’s imperative that we also provide the support and mental health services to individuals who have been exposed to traumatic gun violence experiences,” said Senator Booker. “I am proud to cosponsor this legislation with Senator Coons and Senator Durbin that will help heal communities and confront the epidemic of everyday gun violence that is ravaging communities across the country – particularly communities of color.”

“Gun violence can inflict both physical and emotional wounds that impact children and adults for a lifetime. Mental health services are a critical tool to support those who have experienced this pain and break the cycle of violence,” said Senator Durbin. “This legislation will build upon our efforts to ensure that trauma-informed mental health services are within reach for communities experiencing too many shootings.”

“Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, our Delaware communities have suffered a from gun violence epidemic, resulting in immense individual and community trauma. Community-based organizations, like the Center for Structural Equity, work to heal individuals and communities from that trauma. We applaud Senators Coons, Booker, and Durbin for introducing the PATHS Act and advocating for long-term funding to increase access to mental and behavioral health supports in areas impacted by gun violence,” said Alisia Drew, Director of Operations of the Center of Structural Equity. 

“The American Psychological Association commends Senators Coons, Booker, and Durbin for introducing the Preventing and Addressing Trauma with Health Services Act to address the ongoing struggles that many communities face in the aftermath of violence,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., CEO of The American Psychological Association. “This bill marks an important step forward in investing the resources necessary to increase access to trauma support and mental health services that so many individuals impacted by violence need. APA Services, Inc. endorses the PATHS Act and urges Congress to swiftly pass this vital legislation.”

“We appreciate Sen. Coons’ commitment to comprehensively addressing the effects of violence on impacted communities,” said ChristianaCare President and CEO Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH. “Violence is a public health epidemic that we, as health care providers, must address directly, though programs like ChristianaCare’s EVOLV hospital-based violence intervention program and our collaborative co-responder model with the New Castle County Police Department, which provides mental health outreach to the community. The PATHS Act will provide much-needed resources in support of innovative programs that meet a wide range of behavioral health needs for Delawareans.”

“Our Black and Brown communities are plagued with trauma, lack of resources, and access to mental health services. We have Delaware residents who risk exposure to gun violence every day who are overlooked and under-supported,” said Crysta Harris, Licensed Professional Counselor of Mental Health and Founder of the Black & Brown Delaware Therapists Directory. “The Black Brown Delaware Therapists Directory was designed to solve a problem – to connect culturally competent mental health providers to the communities most impacted. We are grateful for Senator Coons, Booker, and Durbin recognizing the need for community support, specifically communities impacted by gun violence as the nation sees higher rates, and are hopeful that the PATHS Act will allow our residents to heal and prioritize their mental health.”

There is no one solution to combat gun violence in communities across the country, and tackling this epidemic requires bold investments in a broad range of solutions. That is why Senators Coons, Booker, and Durbin each support Sen. Booker’s Break the Cycle Violence Act, which would invest $5 billion in community violence intervention efforts, as well as Sen. Durbin’s Resilience Investment, Support, and Expansion (RISE) from Trauma Act, which would expand support for children who have experienced trauma from community violence. Together, these efforts will help prevent violence in our communities and prioritize addressing the negative health outcomes associated with gun violence.

The PATHS Act would:

  • Establish and maintain culturally competent mental health services;
  • Hire, retain, and train service providers; 
  • Develop strategies and projects to enhance access to care; 
  • Partner with other eligible entities to increase access to services; and 
  • Build public education about the availability of services and to reduce the stigma around receiving mental health support. 

The bill is endorsed by the American Psychological Association, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Community Justice Action Fund, ChristianaCare, and the Center for Structural Equity.