Contra Costa County is declaring gun violence a public health issue and is launching a coalition to involve residents in the effort to curb the violence.
The new organization will target young people in the West Contra Costa County areas such as Richmond and eastern parts of the county such as Antioch.
Contra Costa Health is the agency behind this new gun violence prevention coalition. Once formed, the coalition plans to sponsor Silence the Violence days of action. More important, it will reach out to middle and high school students at risk of using a firearm and encourage them to go into group counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy.
The coalition also will target young adults ages 18 to 24 who are out of school but with little to no direction in life and will help those individuals develop skills to get jobs in the trades or other professions.
Contra Costa County is one of the few large California counties to see a drop in gun homicides in 2020, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. But the county did see a 10% rise in assaults involving guns during that time.
During the pandemic, Contra Costa Health says gun violence increased after COVID-related government assistance ran out.
Hisham Alibob, manager of the new coalition, was returning Tuesday from a Justice Department convention in St. Louis, where he received on behalf of the county a $1.5 million grant from the federal government to fund the new program. Alibob says there are a litany of reasons why young people turn to guns. Many are bullied at school or in their neighborhood and end up joining a gang.
“The issue of preventing gangs is critical, right? Because a gang is really just a response to a lack of support,” Alibob said. “And it’s critical for me to be the support and to help proliferate support systems and to be an incubator of training and being able to instill skills in people to convert them from, you know, maybe not seeing purpose their life.”
Contra Costa residents with “lived experience, diverse backgrounds and perspectives” are encouraged to apply to be members of the new gun violence prevention coalition. Applications can be submitted online by visiting the county website.
The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Friday.
Source: NBC Bay Area
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