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Violence Interruption Groups Can Suffer Erratic Funding, Burnout

As calls for alternatives to policing intensify, several cities have focused on violence interruption to solve the problems of gun violence and over-policing in communities of color. Many say they need more social and professional support to succeed long term, NBC News reports. Over the last two years, lawmakers in Indianapolis; Savannah, Ga., and Knoxville, Tn., have started or expanded violence interruption programs — which aim to reduce gun violence through community-based mediation. The Justice Department says it will give $444 million in grants to support a wide variety of violence reduction efforts, including community-based violence intervention and prevention strategies. Dr. Debra Houry of the Centers for Disease Control said violence interrupters "have shown promising results for multiple outcomes, including firearm violence, by identifying and mediating potentially lethal conflicts in the community and following up to ensure that conflicts do not escalate.”

While hopes are high for the model, those who work with such organizations say there is a lack infrastructure for workers to succeed — including inconsistent or disparate funding and high rates of burnout — causing most to leave the profession after about five years. For nearly a decade, Ira Henry and a group of six violence interrupters called Operation Good, paid entirely by donations, have been defusing gunfire in South Jackson, Ms. “It’s a calling, a purpose and a redemption for me, but it does take a toll,” said Henry, 41 It’s a demanding and time-consuming job that caused him to miss family reunions and milestones in his two kids’ lives. “We can’t stop even for a day, because people count on us,” he said. “They call us for help all the time.” And the modest paycheck leaves little left for mental health services or time off to cope with the stress of the job. While many groups get considerable government aid, disbursement of the funds hasn’t been uniform, and smaller, grassroots groups, like Henry’s, have been left to their own devices, said Howard Henderson of the Brookings Institution.


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