State grants funding to Bronx-based program aimed at combating gun violence

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THE BRONX -

A Bronx-based program is being recognized by the state for its immersive approach to getting guns off the street.

The state is shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the Stand Up to Violence program up and running in 2019.

The group says it plans to use those funds to stop more shootings, in the year ahead. For Minister Kwame Thompson, this work is personal.

“I know what it means to make the wrong decision, you know when I grew up, I made bad decisions, but you know were able to have mentors in place to talk with us and work with us and that's what we do,” says Thompson.

In his current role as an outreach supervisor with the Bronx’s Stand Up to Violence program, Thompson leads a team of outreach workers who embed themselves in their communities to combat gun violence.

Efforts that will continue for a fifth year thanks to the renewed funding from the state.

The governor pledged $626,500 in 2019 to the Jacobi Medical Center Auxiliary, which runs SUV.

“We're stopping the spread of it and we're treating it and the way we do that is through our credible messengers, through our outreach workers, and what we do, we set up workshops, do anger management, conflict resolution, whatever it takes to change the mindset of the individuals because then we can change the mindset of the community,” says Thompson.

From canvassing neighborhoods to fitness classes for community children, it's all about offering resources and alternatives to violence.

The money will allow SUV to keep its six outreach workers, two supervisors, a social worker, doctor and pastor on staff.

Those workers will do street outreach within the 43rd, 47th and 49th precincts, which are areas the program director says have seen a noticeable drop in shootings since the start of SUV.

“Over the last four years that we've been operating, we've seen decreases in the precincts of up to 60 percent, and this year alone was 20 percent,” says program director Erika Mendelsohn.

Mendelsohn also says SUV is the only street outreach program in the country headquartered in a hospital, which allows shooting victims brought to NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi to be instantly connected to outreach teams in the emergency room, along with resources to prevent retaliation.

Program members hope to find more innovative ways to engage the youth in the year to come. 

“Our goal is to always stop the shootings and homicides in our community, now wherever we can use that funding to help us do that, that's a plus,” says Mendelsohn.

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