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Much Antiviolence Funding Not Going To Areas Most In Need

Gun deaths in the U.S. reached all-time highs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and firearms are now the leading cause of death among children and teens.

In response, more cities are investing federal dollars in local programs to curtail shootings.

A new report finds many are failing to address the root causes in the most affected communities, USA Today reports.

Community Justice Action Fund, a left-leaning nonprofit led by people of color, compiled a "first-of-its kind" index and scorecard to assess how cities allocate funding to violence prevention programs. The report focused on the 50 U.S. cities with the highest rates of shootings last year.

The Biden administration says it has at least $300 million for community violence prevention and intervention programs – such as job programs and substance use and mental health services – through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act and 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

Sixty-four percent of cities in the new report have invested in the model of gun violence prevention known as street violence intervention. These programs rely on "credible messengers" who mediate conflicts in their communities and connect people with services.

Forty-two percent of the cities have invested in mental health crisis response programs that send unarmed first responders who have mental health expertise. Most programs are pilot projects where mental health professionals co-respond to 911 calls involving behavioral or mental health crises.

Only thirty-eight percent of cities have invested in a "comprehensive" public health approach to violence prevention, and fewer than half (21) have offices of violence prevention, the report found.

While most cities direct funding to programs that aim to address the root causes of violence such as housing and food security, employment, education, health and firearm regulation, the report found most programs do not prioritize communities that experience the highest levels of violence.

Only six percent of the funded housing and food assistance programs that specifically targeted neighborhoods most impacted by violence.

One in ten cities funded organizations that provide long-term trauma-informed behavioral and mental health care for people most at risk of violence.

One quarter of the cities invested in workforce development programs for people known to be at high risk for engaging in or experiencing violence.

"We also found that none of the 50 rated cities have a discernible strategy to address the dearth of trauma care facilities in or near communities that experience the highest levels of gun violence," the report says.

Greg Jackson, a gun violence survivor and director of Community Justice Action Fund, said it's essential that cities narrowly tailor programs and services to the people and communities that most need the resources.


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