Northampton gets $150K boost for Department of Community Care in Senate budget

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/1/2021 7:59:14 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city’s planned Department of Community Care is in line to receive an additional $150,000 from an amendment to the state budget.

The department, which was a major recommendation of the city’s Policing Review Commission, would be independent from the police and staffed with trained personnel to respond to nonviolent calls. The mayor’s proposed $121.7 million budget allocates $423,955 towards the creation of the department in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. With the additional state money, available funding would rise to just under $574,000.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz requested the additional money from state Sen. Jo Comerford, he wrote in an email to the City Council, and the Massachusetts Senate debated and unanimously approved Comerford’s filed amendment last Thursday. In addition to the money for Northampton, Comerford helped secure $90,000 for Amherst’s crisis response initiatives.

Some, including members of the activist group Northampton Abolition Now, have criticized the mayor’s budget for what they say is inadequate funding towards the department. Narkewicz responded that the city’s allocation is a “very meaningful investment in the first stage of setting up the department,” which he said will be operational by fiscal 2023.

Cynthia Suopis, a co-chair of the Northampton Policing Review Commission, said that the city’s budget allocation was lower than ideal, but not unexpectedly so.

“We knew it was going to be phased in,” Suopis said. “It’s never adequate. We would have loved to see more money, to see a more aggressive phase-in, but that ship has sailed.”

The extra funding from the state amendment is a welcome boost, Suopis said.

“It’s never going to be what we need, because we proposed a pretty ambitious project” she said, “but I think we need to start somewhere, and I’m glad to see this money flowing through this initiative.”

Suopis added that she is also “anxious to see” if the city will use additional emergency relief funding towards the department’s establishment.

Comerford said she filed the amendment due to high interest in the department from community members and leaders in Northampton, as well as the department’s potential to reimagine public safety.

“Northampton is continuing on this path or this process to expand options around policing,” Comerford said, “or thinking about new ways to engage with the community around public safety, and I appreciate that.”

A state conference committee must now adopt the $150,000 amendment, among many others, to secure the funding. Comerford and Narkewicz said they are optimistic that the committee will approve the amendment into the final state budget, which Comerford said will ideally be ready for July 1.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy