116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County Public Health will receive $250,000 a year for each of the next five years to help the growing efforts of reducing youth gun violence in the community, officials announced this week.
The local public health department is one of eight grant recipients across the nation named by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of an initiative to address violence impacting adolescents and teens as well as other factors that put communities at greater risk for violence.
The $1.25 million over five years will help implement prevention strategies that address “the intersection between violence, social determinants of health and racial inequity,” officials said. The funding is part of the federal agency’s program called Preventing Violence Affecting Young Lives, or PREVAYL.
“This is a significant investment in our community, and huge opportunity for us to work together to address the risk factors such as social determinants of health and health inequities that contribute to youth violence” Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi said in a statement.
Strategies used under this grant will align with an initiative already put into motion through the Creating Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Fund — or SET Fund. The fund, established in 2018 and overseen by the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, provides grants to programs that engage with youth on the issue of gun violence.
“This grant is building capacity for the community to be able to engage in this work and expanding the capacity for the work we’re already doing,” said Rachel Rockwell, the SET program officer at the Community Foundation.
Linn County Public Health will not be subcontracting with the Community Foundation, Dwivedi said, but rather will continue to work to align the programs. The department, though, will be subcontracting with the Foundation 2 nonprofit, where there is funding for community health care coordination under a county-based system called My Care Community.
Three prevention strategies
Details around two prevention strategies identified in the grant application — implementing public education campaigns and reducing immediate and long-term harms of trauma — are yet to be finalized, Dwivedi said.
The prevention strategy identified by Linn County Public Health was enacted in the community when the SET Fund became fully operational this May. The SET Fund last year was awarded a “transformational” grant of $465,000 over three years, doubling the money it had on hand at the time.
In addition to allowing Rockwell to become a full-time employee on the fund, that anonymous donation provided technical assistance from the National Network for Safe Communities to implement the Group Violence Intervention model in Cedar Rapids.
Since May, law enforcement officials and community members have delivered custom notifications to those known to have been involved with or part of a network of those who are engaged in violent activities. These messages — mostly directed to individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 — emphasize the community’s desire to end violence. They have delivered messaging to 45 individuals since May, Rockwell said.
Data from the Cedar Rapids Police Department shows a drop in the number of gun-related crimes since last year. When comparing the year-to-date through Sept. 30 to the same time period in 2020, Cedar Rapids saw:
- A 31 percent decline in the number of shots fired incidents, or a drop to 91 in 2021 from 131 in 2020.
- A 38 percent decrease in shootings with injury, or 23 compared with 37.
- A 22 percent decline in homicide by firearm, or a drop to seven from nine the year before.
The federal grant to Linn County Public Health also will boost additional support offered to individuals who receive these custom notifications from the SET Fund. These services offer opportunities for individuals to achieve goals or meet basic needs that will help them “walk down a safer path,” Rockwell said. That includes housing support, mental health services or removing barriers to employment, among others.
“We’ve been working really hard to figure out how this work we’ve started and this work that’s working to reduce community violence can be sustained,” Rockwell said. “We didn’t know what that would look like. So this (grant) was really rewarding and affirming. It gives us a lot of hope for future of our community.”
Currently, the work by the SET Fund is done on a voluntary basis, Rockwell said. There’s need for at least one or two more support and outreach workers.
Linn County Public Health plans to continue these efforts with the SET Fund and other stakeholders beyond the five-year grant to ensure progress on addressing youth violence locally continues, Dwivedi said.
“This is going to benefit everyone, so we have to maintain the sustainability of this project moving forward,” he said.
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