Harrison Township Committee signed two proclamations on June 3, vowing to help those affected by a mental illness and advocate to end gun violence.
“The proclamations we have tonight are more than just a proclamation, it’s a vow,” said Deputy Mayor Don Heim, in place of Mayor Louis Manzo, who was absent.
The first proclamation was on ending stigmas that surround mental illnesses and the people who chose to seek help for it. Committeewoman Julie DeLaurentis said, “everyone knows someone, works with someone, lives with someone, or is someone who is dealing with a mental illness or a substance abuse issue.”
DeLaurentis read aloud statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which stated “approximately one in five adults in the U.S. experiences a mental illness in a given year; one in five youth, ages 13 to 18, experiences a mental disorder; 20.2 million adults in the U.S. have experienced a substance abuse disorder, and just over half have co-occurring mental disorders; suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the second in people ages 10 through 34 and each day, an estimated 18 to 22 veterans die by suicide.”
She added the World Health Organization and the surgeon general have been talking about mental health and the illnesses for the better part of 20 years and it’s not a new concept.
“Here, the Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club brought up this subject with the [End the Stigma] banners they sponsor in town,” she said. “They did fundraising, the banners and workshops. It’s a good beginning and it’d like to continue, as a township, working on this.”
Ending the stigma, she added, begins with respecting people who are going through a mental illness, understanding mental illnesses as a whole and changing the perception on mental illnesses to help others proactively seek treatment.
In the proclamation on ending gun violence, Heim said nearly 100 Americans are killed by gun violence and an estimated 13,000 people die by gun homicides each year. He added Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed with guns than people in other “high-income countries” and it’s the governing body’s and police’s responsibility to protect people.
“Support of the Second Amendment and the rights of law-abiding citizens goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from people with dangerous histories,” he added.
Hadiya Pendleton, he added, marched in former President Obama’s second inauguration and was shot and killed in January of 2013. A national coalition of organizations designated the first Friday in June every year – this year being June 7 – as National Gun Violence Awareness Day and pledged to wear orange in memory of Pendleton.
“They (Pendleton’s friends) chose this color because hunters wear orange to announce themselves to other hunters when out in the woods,” he added. “Orange symbolizes the value of human life.”
Swedesboro resident, and member of the nonprofit gun law advocacy group Moms Demand Action, Jim Stewart added 20 veterans die by suicide each day from guns and he works to promote responsible gun ownership and keeping them away from people, and kids, who could harm themselves or others.
“We renew our commitment to reduce gun violence and do all we can to keep firearms out of the wrong hands and encourage responsible gun ownership,” said Heim.
In other news:
- Resident Steven Grimshaw spoke in support of a reduction of the speed limit on Williamson Lane (current speed limit is 40 miles per hour). Grimshaw read statistics from a 2016 traffic study where roughly 60 percent of drivers were speeding past 45 miles per hour. Deputy Administrator Dennis Chambers said he will follow up with Police Chief Thomas Mills.
- The backyard chicken pilot started as of June 3 after approval from the township committee, with the exception of Manzo. No resident spoke in opposition of it.