EAST GARFIELD PARK — Gov. JB Pritzker is committing $50 million to a violence prevention grant program next year in an attempt to prevent gun violence.
Pritzker declared gun violence a public emergency during a news conference Monday and said the state is kicking off a whole-of-government approach uniting state, county and municipal agencies with neighborhood groups dedicated to ending gun violence. He spoke at the Breakthrough Urban Ministries FamilyPlex in East Garfield Park.
The $50 million, which will come from state and federal funding, will support grants to community programs that address social factors that lead to violence, including “institutionalized racism in housing, health care, job opportunities and family support services,” Pritzker said.
His administration will request another $200 million in the 2023 and 2024 budgets to bring the total investment to $250 million over three years.
“It’s a stray bullet through the bedroom window. An expressway shooting. The violence that ricochets through spaces that should be safe. We all deserve to be safe from gun violence,” Pritzker said.
The violence prevention strategy will focus on four areas: youth development, violence prevention, intervention that diverts high-risk youth from the justice system and trauma recovery, work that many West Side community groups long have focused on.
The newly established Office of Firearm Violence Prevention will oversee the competitive grant program. More details will be announced over the next few weeks.
“We will do what it takes individually and collectively to address the immediate violence on our streets and invest in fighting the underlying causes that create too much despair, too much addiction, too little mental health treatment and too few opportunities,” Pritzker said.
The public-health approach to ending violence is “all about the social determinants of health,” said state Rep. Justin Slaughter. Those factors include economic development, education and housing in the most vulnerable communities, Slaughter said. He sponsored the Reimagine Public Safety Act, which proposes initiatives for ending violence.
A holistic approach is necessary because the conditions that give rise to violence are rooted in racism and disinvestment, said Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton.
“The people of these communities are often viewed as the problem rather than recognizing that it is the inherited conditions in which our neighbors, friends and loved ones live that is the problem that perpetuates this violence,” Stratton said.
The executive order also directs state agencies to work with the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention, which was created by the Reimagine Public Safety Act signed in June, to “ensure that the people doing the work on the ground have the resources to lead the way forward,” Pritzker said.
The Office of Firearm Violence Prevention is led by Chris Patterson, who was formerly a senior director for the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, a street outreach group focused on the West Side.
The new agency will “activate evidence-based programs and services … and take a holistic approach to reducing the firearm violence epidemic,” Patterson said.
The initiative will start by focusing on 22 high-risk community areas in Chicago along with 15 other areas across the state, Patterson said.
Collaboration between state and city governments with community groups is essential for successfully ending gun violence since local organizations know from experience what works and what doesn’t, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
“We need these community partners themselves to be healthy and strong,” Lightfoot said. “Anything that flows from the state [must be] done in partnership with local communities.”
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