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Baltimore City

U.S. Justice Department awards nearly $5.5 million to violence intervention groups in Baltimore

From left, Cheryl Riviere, program director of Living Classrooms Foundation; Andrea Brown, executive director of Black Mental Health Alliance for Education and Consultation; Kurtis Palermo, executive vice president of Roca Maryland; Baltimore Deputy Mayor Anthony Barksdale; Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney Amy L. Solomon meet about the U.S. Justice Department awarding nearly $5.5 million to violence intervention groups in Baltimore.

Three community-based organizations in Baltimore have been awarded nearly $5.5 million in federal grants for violence intervention efforts.

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs on Thursday announced grant awards totaling $100 million to help communities across the U.S. reduce gun crime and other serious violence. Department officials made the announcement during a visit to Baltimore.

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Amy L. Solomon, the office’s principal deputy assistant attorney general, announced local awards during a roundtable hosted by Roca Baltimore, one of recipients. The Black Mental Health Alliance for Education and Consultation and the Living Classrooms Foundation in Baltimore were also awarded.

“These are really challenging times in Baltimore and the nation,” Solomon told the attendees. She said violence needs to be examined through not just a law enforcement lens, but also a holistic lens.

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Funding is through the OJP’s Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative, which will grant $1,998,807 to Roca Baltimore; $1,497,989 to Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation; and $1,950,000 to The Living Classrooms Foundation.

“We know the level of trauma is great, and the level of violence in our community is often debilitating to even think about — but we are having an impact and we are committed to staying in the work here, expanding our efforts and never giving up on these young people,” said Kurtis Palermo, executive vice president of Roca Maryland.

Roca, which launched in the city in 2018 and also has locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, is a nonprofit that hopes to expand the number of young men it works with in Baltimore from 200 per year to 250 per year with the federal grant.

Roca will use funds to expand its after-shooting protocol to track, reach and engage with all victims of nonfatal shootings in Baltimore City. Young nonfatal shooting victims seen as likely to retaliate or be shot again receive a visit from Roca within 48 hours to attempt to connect them to services.

It also wants to expand the reach of its work to serve an estimated 60 to 80 young men per year who are driving violence in communities outside Baltimore City.

Cheryl Riviere, program director of Living Classrooms Foundation, told attendees that funding will aid in expanding reach and create a pipeline to success for at-risk youths in the city.

Living Classrooms is a nonprofit that operates Safe Streets, an anti-violence program, which employs and trains so-called “violence interrupters,” often people with knowledge of the streets and criminal histories, to mediate disputes before they become violent. The program has sites in the McElderry Park and Belair-Edison neighborhoods.

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Baltimore is working to expand and centralize its core anti-violence programs — steps that officials say will curb future bloodshed as the city remains on pace to record more than 300 homicides for the eighth year in a row.

“For almost 40 years, we have been the trusted source of clinically, culturally relevant forms and conferences and clinicians who really get to speak to the heart of Black and brown people, whether it’s young people or older people,” said Andrea Brown, executive director of the Black Mental Health Alliance.

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The Black Mental Health Alliance provides mental health services and promotes holistic, culturally sensitive behavioral health resources.

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