YMCA gets $850,000 from state to address youth gun violence in Brockton
The Old Colony YMCA received $850,000 in grant funding from the state to prevent and reduce gun violence and other violent crime among youth and young adults in Brockton.
Enterprisenews.com, Marc Larocque
May 6, 2019
BROCKTON – Gun violence has taken a toll on the youth of Brockton, especially when it comes to the city’s minority population, according to the Old Colony YMCA.
And, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, black youth between the ages of 15 and 24 years old had 32 times the rate of hospitalizations due to a firearm assault when compared to white youth.
Now, the state is providing funds to organizations throughout the state, including one in Brockton, to support programs meant to prevent gun violence and combat gang activity. The Department of Public Health announced on Monday that the Old Colony YMCA received a two-year grant for $850,000 in state funding to implement a plan to address disparities in neighborhoods with higher rates of gun violence in Brockton.
“Racial equity is a key piece of this,” said Katie Joyce, vice president of grants, development and contracts for Old Colony YMCA. “A lot of what the grant actually does is planning and coalition-building and getting the youth involved, and figuring out what is going to help them and what is really contributing to this gun violence. It’s about connecting with kids of color to make sure they have a voice.”
The $850,000 grant was part of an overall announcement of $8 million provided to 10 organizations throughout the state, including multiple initiatives funded in Dorchester, Roxbury and Springfield. Of the grant-funded organizations plan to “promote and identify effective services” to reduce gun violence and other forms of violence, while incorporating behavioral health programing that uses protocols designed to reduce gun violence. The organizations are being tasked with reaching out to those at the highest risk for experience violence, including youht of color, but also people of all races who are going through the court system, or have substance abuse disorders, or are victims and witnesses of violence.
Joyce said the Brockton outreach plan made possible by the state grant is much appreciated because it’s hard to come by public funding for youth violence prevention when times are tough budget-wise.
“That doesn’t always have available funding,” Joyce said. “It’s one of the first things that gets cut when times are tough. It will provide a lot of outreach to people in the community that aren’t currently getting serviced. ... We’re really excited about this. We’ve been patiently waiting for this. But I don’t know how patient we actually were because of how eager we were to serve this community.”
And Joyce said the demographics that the plan is meant to address, people age 17 through 24 for whom in Massachusetts gun violence is the leading cause of death, aren’t not typically the subjects of such public health programs. At the same time, according to the Department of Public Health, gun violence is the leading cause of death for 17-24 years olds, with 63 percent of homicides due to a firearm. Overall, in 2016, there were 245 firearm deaths in Massachusetts, of which just over a third were homicides, according to DPH.
“It’s somewhat of a forgotten population,” Joyce said. “We feel we can fill a lot of that void.”
Joyce said the grant has the potential to be renewed after the second year for a total of 10 years. Joyce said it can be a successful program through collaboration with other community organizations.
“It takes an agency to oversee the work, but we can’t do it alone,” Joyce said. “That’s why we want to build the coalition with key agencies. That includes small to larger operations, because everyone has something to contribute.”
The head of the Health and Human Services for the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker said the grant funding is about understanding why gun violence is disproportionately affecting people of color, and taking action to curb that trend.
“Gun violence and violent crime disproportionately affect young adults and people of color,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Understanding the risk and protective factors that contribute to gun violence allows us to target our public health interventions to make the most meaningful impact in the lives of young people.”
This piece originally appeared in The Enterprise of Brockton.