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Community violence prevention is a priority in this year's state budget

September 28, 2023
Photo by State News File Photo | The State News

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has allocated $12.6 million toward grant funding for local organizations dedicated to preventing community violence. The funding is intended to improve community safety throughout the state of Michigan.

 The department’s funding comes from Community Violence Intervention Programs investments included in the 2023 and 2024 state budgets approved by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, according to an MDHHS press release on Sept. 11.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, defines community violence as violence that occurs “between unrelated individuals, who may or may not know each other, generally outside the home.” Examples include homicides, shootings, stabbings and physical assaults.

The goal of the MDHHS grants are to fund direct community services in order to advance community violence intervention and prevention strategies, the press release said. MDHHS Injury and Violence Prevention Manager Jennifer DeLaCruz said community activities are an essential aspect of violence prevention.

“That can include things like street outreach, it also includes looking at employment and job training,” DeLaCruz said. “It could also include specific programs within organizations or even local hospitals that are violence intervention programs. We're trying to help community members access resources, and help mitigate violence, or choose paths and choices that do not involve violence.”

DeLaCruz said community organizations typically know what interventions are most needed for their specific community problems. She said local groups are already doing prevention work and that the funding is intended to advance that work.

“We know that communities are all working together now to help reduce incidents of violence as they know their own communities, they know what works best,” DeLaCruz said.

Eligible organizations can apply for a grant through the EGrAMS website. According to the press release, a maximum of $500,000 is available per grantee in the first year and $400,000 in the second year. 

DeLaCruz said organizations will be required to submit letters of support to prove they work in the community and implement violence prevention or intervention strategies.

How one local organization has utilized state funding

After receiving a $15 million grant from Michigan’s Department of Education, the MSU Department of Psychiatry and Safe and Sound Schools have launched a five-year pilot program dedicated to preventing targeted violence within schools. The program, Prevent 2 Protect, uses a community-centered approach to address the needs of high risk and high need adolescents.

Prevent 2 Protect co-director Alyse Folino Ley said adolescents are defined as high risk and high need when they are at a high risk of committing targeted violence within the school setting

The program functions through four pillars: intensive support teams, consultation, education and research. The end goal for the project is to create an intervention model that can be replicated in any community across the country, Ley said.

High risk adolescents are given a holistic multidisciplinary assessment which is used to create an individualized care plan, Ley said. The adolescent is then assigned to an intensive support team consisting of a mentor and case manager that help them access the needed resources.

Ley said the goal of the project is to mend the gap between mental health services, law enforcement and the school system to ensure that kids are fully supported in their communities.

“After an attack is completed, we oftentimes hear that these kids fell through the cracks or the gaps in the system,” Ley said. “[The program] is helping to ensure that the kids do not fall through the cracks and the gaps in the system, we are filling those gaps.”

Prevent 2 Protect Project Manager Danielle Murphy said community violence requires “microlevel intervention” because communities are unique and have differing needs. She said the program will hopefully produce a framework that communities can tailor to their specific needs.

“Each intermediate school district is going to be a little bit different,” Murphy said. “How the law enforcement’s structured, how the community mental health’s structures. That's what I think is really unique about this program, versus, you know, if we had a federal or state level policy.”

Funding for community organizations as opposed to state-wide or nation-wide programs or policies allows for communities to allocate money as they need it, Lead Case Manager Angela Matthews said.

“The community is aware of their strengths and their weaknesses,” Matthews said. “If it's a community funded program, then they can direct funding to specific areas that they think need more funding to support what they already have or what they need.”

DeLaCruz said the community violence prevention grants are part of a commitment from MDHHS, the governor’s office and the state legislature to support crime victims and prevent violence in the state.

“We think that every Michigander should be able to leave their home, go to school or work, go for a walk, eat at a local restaurant, go get groceries and be able to get home safely at the end of their day,” DeLaCruz said. “That is why we're making these investments because not only do we all have a role to play in helping prevent community violence, but everyone should be able to live and thrive in their communities.”

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