WASHINGTON — Connecting people likely to commit gun violence to physical and behavioral healthcare is part of the Biden administration’s gun violence prevention strategy, the White House announced Wednesday.
“You will have heard President Biden, again and again, call the nation’s attention to what he has said is a public health epidemic: gun violence,” a senior administration official told reporters on a Tuesday night phone call prior to the official announcement. “We know that the secondary consequences of the pandemic, and the proliferation of illegal guns, have led to increased violence for the past year and a half, including a 30% increase in homicides and 8% increase in gun assaults in large cities in 2020.”
Building on previous actions taken and budget requests made, “the president is announcing his comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to gun crime, and ensure public safety,” the official said. President Biden is slated to discuss the strategy on Wednesday afternoon, following a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland and other stakeholders to talk about what the federal government is doing to keep neighborhoods safe.
Connecting likely perpetrators to physical and mental healthcare will come from funding the administration is allocating to community violence intervention (CVI) programs established as part of the American Rescue Plan legislation that Congress passed in March and was signed into law by President Biden, White House officials said.
“These are programs that target individuals who are most likely to be involved in gun violence either as perpetrators or as victims to de-escalate tensions to prevent retaliation, and to save lives,” a senior administration official said. “They have a significant wraparound services component, helping people with job placement, with healthcare, cognitive behavioral therapy, education, and a number of other services to help folks get their lives on a different track, and to prevent the violence.” As an example of the types of health-related services used by CVI programs, many of them pay for counseling — or hire counselors on staff — to help program participants address trauma and anger without retaliating.
“Last month, the Treasury Department announced that the American Rescue Plan’s $350 billion in state and local funding can be used to invest in evidence-based community violence interventions,” the administration said in a fact sheet. So far, 14 large jurisdictions have agreed to take part in a CVI Collaborative in which participants agree to use part of their American Rescue Plan funding for CVI programs. The 14 jurisdictions include Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Chicago; Detroit; King County, Washington; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; Newark, New Jersey; Rapid City, South Dakota; St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington, D.C.
“Over the next 18 months, the administration will convene meetings with officials from these communities, facilitate peer-to-peer learning, and provide technical assistance,” the fact sheet noted. “This effort will support both proven and new strategies that reduce gun violence” and also strengthen community institutions to help enhance safety. In addition to the federal government’s role in the collaborative, a group of philanthropies will deploy CVI experts to provide training and technical assistance, and identify best practices.
The CVI programs are part of the administration’s five-part initiative to reduce gun violence. The five parts include:
- Stem the flow of firearms used to commit violence, including holding firearms dealers accountable for violating federal laws
- Support local law enforcement with federal tools and resources to help address summer violent crime
- Invest in evidence-based community violence interventions
- Expand summer programming, employment opportunities, and other services and supports for teenagers and young adults
- Help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities
In addition to the American Rescue Plan money, the administration is trying to get other funding for CVI programs — $5.2 billion through the not-yet-passed American Jobs Plan legislation, and money in its fiscal year 2022 discretionary budget request, the fact sheet said.
Last Updated June 23, 2021