Implementing the New York City Crisis Management System
Man Up! Inc. is the host organization for the Cure Violence program in East New York. The organization opened its doors in 2003 in response to the fatal shooting of an 8-year-old boy. Man Up! Inc. began working with children in the community, and gradually incorporated services for disadvantaged teenagers and adults in need of help. Today, Man Up! Inc. provides services that include but are not limited to school and summer camp programs, mentoring and leadership development, community watch programs, services for the formerly incarcerated, and assistance with parenting and housing. The organization is also involved in a variety of programs and initiatives intended to combat gun, gang, and street violence, such as the Bury Da Beef Campaign, the Communities Against Violence Coalition, and the NY Peace Week.
Man Up! Inc. was one of the first organizations to use the Cure Violence model in New York State. In 2010, the New York State Senate awarded the organization a grant to combat gun violence by employing the Ceasefire model, later renamed Cure Violence. The organization began diversifying its funding sources, and in 2012, Man Up! Inc. received funding from the New York City Council to implement the “crisis management system” promulgated by the Task Force to Combat Violence initiative. The City Council funding allowed the organization to supplement the services already provided with wrap-around services as called for by the crisis management system.
Cure Violence Component
The Cure Violence model is well-established nationally and has been supported by multiple evaluations, which helped to legitimize the work that Man Up! Inc. had been doing within the community for many years. Familiarity with this type of work made it easy for staff members at Man Up! Inc. to understand and incorporate the Cure Violence model.
The Man Up! Inc. staff today supports expanding its Cure Violence program with the crisis management system because it allows them to incorporate services that address the participants’ real needs. Under the Cure Violence model, which consisted primarily of violence interruption and outreach work, Man Up! Inc. staff members lacked a clear plan for helping program participants once they made contact with them. The wrap-around services provided as part of the crisis management system addressed this problem.
Man Up! Inc. staff believes that the Cure Violence approach prioritizes the high risk population of the neighborhood in two different ways. First, the model requires that Cure Violence staff members live in the target area and have first-hand knowledge of street and local gangs. This population is especially vulnerable because they usually have criminal backgrounds and, therefore, are frequently under-employed. Second, the target population consists of the highest risk community members. Several criteria are used to categorize a person as high-risk, most importantly age range (age 16 to 24), recent release from prison, access to a gun, having been the victim of gun violence, and playing a major role in a street organization.
Man Up! Inc. is located at 821 Van Siclen Avenue, Brooklyn. The Cure Violence program target area is within the 75th precinct of the New York Police Department. It covers the area limited by Cozine Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, Linden Boulevard, and Ashford Street. The Cure Violence team includes the Executive Director, one outreach supervisor, three outreach workers, two violence interrupters, and two hospital responders. Each staff member undergoes a 40-hour initial training by members of the Chicago team and the staff continues to receive on-going training in New York.
Man Up! Inc. provides the violence interruption and outreach work components of the Cure Violence model. Violence interrupters mediate conflicts at their earliest stages and refer participants to outreach workers. Outreach workers counsel up to 15 participants on a caseload and they help participants to obtain identification, return to school, enroll in substance abuse programs, and assist with job interviews, among other services. Outreach workers are trained in motivational tactics, as well as how to work with suicidal individuals, law enforcement, crowds, community members, and hostile environments. They try to make contact with each participant several times per week. The general goal is to become a familiar face and a positive and motivating force in the life of each participant.
Man Up! Inc. staff enters data into the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention (CPVP) database managed by the Cure Violence headquarters. Violence interrupters and outreach workers are trained to enter information about all the contacts that they make with clients, as well as any mediation they complete. According to information extracted from the database in Spring 2013, the Man Up! Inc. team serves slightly more than 100 participants annually.
Under the supervision of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Man Up! Inc. added a hospital component to the Cure Violence program in 2013. Man Up! Inc. has a contractual agreement with the Kings County Hospital to respond to shootings in the program’s target area. Hospital responders are given hospital identification and are considered part of the hospital staff. A two-hospital responder team goes to the hospital whenever they receive a call from a hospital social worker that an ambulance is coming in with a gunshot victim from the target area. Hospital responders arrive at the hospital within two hours. It is crucial that they arrive as quickly as possible in order to provide counseling for family members who are dealing with the trauma and anxiety associated with shooting incidents. The hospital responders assess the situation and familiarize themselves with the people involved. In non-fatal incidents, they visit the patient in the hospital and begin to build trust and work to prevent retaliation. Their first goal is to provide victims and their family members with an opportunity to pause and get their emotions under control enough to decide that additional violence is not the best reaction.
The Cure Violence model considers violence from a public health perspective. Violence is a disease that spreads when left unattended. The hospital community is more receptive to this approach. Speaking with doctors, surgeons, social workers, and lawyers about violence as an outbreak that can be treated provides a more comprehensive and familiar understanding of the problem. Hospital responders are trained to see shooting-involved families as patients rather than simply victims. They also learn to identify those family members who may be hot-headed and those who are most approachable. The Man Up! Inc. team is very enthusiastic about this new component, because it allows them to increase their reach and to contact victims of violence in a different context.
Man Up! Inc. also focuses on the public education component of Cure Violence. The program partners with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to advertise and promote the work that Man Up! Inc. is doing in the catchment area. The partnership was still in its developmental phase in mid-2013, but a series of meetings was underway to fashion an effective information and marketing campaign.
The Man Up! Inc. staff is involved in a very wide array of services and supports. For example, the program provides a conflict mediation program in the PS/IS 66 School, which is located in the target area. They teach educational staff members and young people how to resolve conflicts without violence.
Job readiness: Cure Violence participants themselves often seek help with employment. Man Up! Inc. created a 10-week program called Neighborhood Volunteer Corp, from which 11 people had already graduated by mid-2013. Participants undergo job readiness and vocational training, including community service and internships. The program helps participants to learn new skills and to craft effective résumés. It also helps to change the way that society views justice-involved youth. When people see high-risk community members cleaning up the park or helping children in summer camp instead of selling drugs, they begin to think about that person in a more positive way.
Mental health: The crisis management system also includes the provision of mental health and legal services to Cure Violence participants. The New York-based Fortune Society provides mental health and substance abuse services to Cure Violence participants, while Legal Aid Society provides legal services. Man Up! Inc. and these two external partners have not begun to collaborate fully. Much work on this issue remains to be done. According to Man Up! Inc. staff, the referral process often complicates these partnerships. The Fortune Society and Legal Aid are not located in East New York. The staff from East New York believe that program participants may be reluctant to leave the neighborhood to travel to other providers because of ongoing conflicts with groups from bordering areas. It would be easier for the program to work with service providers in the East New York area, but local resources are often insufficient.
Community health: A local organization called “Not Another Child” provides community therapy services for parents, family members, and other loved ones of young people lost through violence. It holds periodic grief counseling meetings with families and responds to emergencies. Not Another Child is the closest partner organization to Man Up! Inc., and it is part of the hiring panel for Cure Violence staff.
Strengths and Challenges
The success of Man Up! Inc. and the crisis management system is built upon effective coordination with community partners, churches, schools, and community leaders. City officials, law enforcement officials, and the East New York community are supportive of the Cure Violence approach. As of July 2013, according to the New York Times, the catchment area had experienced a full year without any shootings or killings — although NYPD data indicate two shootings that involved the catchment area in some way. The staff of Man Up! Inc. posted a sign reporting this promising statistic in the windows of their office. The sign offered a powerful symbol for the neighborhood and it encouraged participation in the program.
The implementation of the program in East New York, of course, also involves challenges. That report that contracts often take a great deal of time to clear. This makes it difficult to obtain funds in time to provide services promptly to the participants. The lack of locally-based providers is also an obstacle. Man Up! Inc. staff would like to collaborate with grass-roots organizations in the neighborhood. Until such resources are readily accessible, however, the staff is working to connect program participants with the current partner agencies. Finally, it is important to consider the psychological consequences of working with a high-risk population. The jobs of violence interrupters and outreach workers are dangerous and demanding. There is a continual need for mental health services for staff in order to prevent burn-out.