19 cities, states that declared public health crises for gun violence, mental health, racism

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Gun violence, racism and mental illness threaten the physical and psychological well-being of the public — and more cities and states are taking notice. 

Throughout the past year, several cities, states and medical organizations declared public health emergencies over racism, gun violence or mental health, marking an important first step to combating these crises.

Here are 19 cities, states and medical group coalitions that have declared public health crises outside of COVID-19 in the past year:

Editor's note: This is not an exhaustive list. Becker's compiled research from state and city webpages, news reports and past coverage. 

Gun violence

1. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared gun violence a public health crisis in the state Nov. 1. He also committed $250 million to help fund the Reimagine Public Safety plan, a data-driven and community-based violence prevention strategy to help the areas hardest hit by gun violence.

2. Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on July 6 declared a new state of emergency for gun violence and committed almost $139 million to reverse the trend of rising shootings and murders across the state. Current New York Gov. Kathy Hochul extended the state of emergency on gun violence in October and said the state has allocated $125 million of the $159 million, according to the Times Union. Cities including New York City, Albany and Rochester have declared their own states of emergency over the uptick in gun violence, according to local reports. 

3. The Kalamazoo City Commission on Sept. 20 issued a resolution declaring gun violence a public health crisis in Kalamazoo, Mich. As part of the declaration, the commission committed $1 million toward initiatives to prevent gun violence. 

4. Flint, Mich., Mayor Sheldon Neeley declared a state of emergency July 23 over the increase in the city's gun violence.The state of emergency allowed Mr. Neeley to issue several executive orders aimed at curbing gun violence, including establishing an emergency response team for traumatic events and better coordinating services between the Flint Police Department and mental health professionals to serve the community.

5. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser formally declared gun violence a public health crisis in the city Feb. 17. She also announced a $15 million investment to address the crisis. The initial investment will be used to create a gun violence prevention emergency operations center.

Mental health and homelessness

1. Boston issued a temporary order Oct. 19 declaring that substance use disorder, unsheltered homelessness and related issues in the city constitute a public health crisis. The temporary order was issued in conjunction with an executive order the mayor signed establishing a coordinated response to encampments and overall public health.

2. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children's Hospital Association on Oct. 19 declared a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health. The organizations are urging others to join the declaration, advocate for increased federal funding and support prevention initiatives to reduce the risk of suicide.

3. In August, the Longview (Wash.) City Council declared a public health emergency at the Alabama Street homeless campsite, according to The Daily News. The newspaper reported that the declaration was in response to unsanitary conditions at the site and allowed the city to hasten plans for a cleanup.

Racism 

1. The New York City Board of Health declared racism a public health crisis Oct. 18 and requested the health department expand its anti-racism work through a series of resolutions. 

2. Richmond, Va., officials declared racism a public health crisis July 26. The city's resolutions included a 10-point plan focusing on implementation of new laws and policies, such as public outreach efforts, partnerships with community organizations and anti-racism training for city officials and employees.

3. St. Petersburg, Fla., declared racism a public health crisis Aug. 5. The move made St. Petersburg the first city in the state to declare the crisis, Spectrum News reported. The resolution called for the appointment of a chief equity officer. 

4. Red Wing, Minn., declared racism a public health crisis Aug. 10. The resolution pledged the implementation of a Racial Equity Plan directed toward efforts of mental healthcare, drug treatments, housing and more. City officials also pledged to set aside funds to support racial equality initiatives and increased collaboration with appropriate agencies. 

5. The Oregon State House of Representatives declared racism a public health crisis June 30. The House said the declaration is a necessary step to advance racial equity and justice in the allocation of resources and strategic action.

6. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health declared racism a public health crisis June 17. Ms. Lightfoot called on the city to improve anti-racist policies through a series of actions, including operationalizing racial equity and establishing anti-racist leadership. CDPH officials allocated $9.6 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the CDC to establish Healthy Chicago Equity Zones

7. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment declared racism a public health crisis April 21. Officials committed to a series of actions to work toward racial equity in the state, including through evaluation and revision of agency policies and practices, as well as partnerships with other agencies to identify and enhance ongoing work around racial and environmental justice and health equity.

8. Huber Heights, Ohio, declared racism a public health crisis April 1. The resolution said the health department will adopt a "Health Equity in All Policies" approach to addressing the crisis. Officials committed to receiving regular reports concerning updates on the progress being made on the resolution's commitments. 

9. The California County Government Association declared racism a public health crisis March 16. One of the key commitments in the resolution was support of the collection of data and other accountability measures in order to track and assess progress on achieving racial equity. Officials also pledged to work with law enforcement to better document incidents between officials and people of color, support and monitor interactions, and improve the use of de-escalation strategies.

10. Utah declared racism a public health crisis March 5. Officials affirmed the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and pledged to approach laws and regulations with an antiracist, "health-in-all policy" and equity-driven focus. 

11. Bloomington, Minn., officials declared racism a public health crisis Jan. 25. A racial equity section was added to the city's legislative policy, and officials pledged to work with an external consultant to implement the steps identified in the resolution. 

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