Cure Violence CEO Explains Prevention Program That May Come to Peoria

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Cure Violence Global assesses Peoria’s readiness for its violence prevention program.

The four-step assessment process should take approximately two weeks. Dr. Fredrick Echols, CEO of the program, explains that the purpose of the assessment is to ensure that Peoria is a good candidate.

“We really wanted to look at what was happening in the community and get feedback from the community on what they thought were some of the issues,” Echols said. “In addition to educating them about the model and how the model is being implemented in neighborhoods across the country.”

The $25,000 readiness assessment is funded by the Peoria City/County Health Department which assumed the cost after the assessment was rejected by the Peoria City Council.

Following the evaluation, it will be up to an RFP (request for proposal) request from the health department for $250,000 in US bailout funds for the city to implement the Cure Violence program.

The city council votes on the request, which is part of a $700,000 package to five community organizations for violence prevention programs, at its Tuesday, Oct. 11 meeting.

The Cure Violence model has been used in places like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and internationally in Trinidad and Tobago and Colombia. You can find more information about the results of the programs in these cities here.

It works primarily around training and relationship building through outreach workers and hired ‘switches’ from within the community.

“Hiring the wrong person to do this job can not only be detrimental to their lives, but it can also be detrimental to the lives of everyone who was hired at a particular site,” Echols said. “And so we have to make sure that individuals have credibility.”

Cure Violence does this by putting in place a lengthy hiring process. First, potential switches are asked to highlight where in the community they have credibility, who they know, and what their story is. Next, a Cure Violence staff member takes them on a guided tour of their neighborhood.

“Sometimes, you know, what people say behind closed doors doesn’t match the reality of the community,” Echols said. “And so when we identify people who don’t have the proper credibility, we cut them out of the hiring process altogether.”

If the vetting process goes well, candidates then appear before a recruitment panel. Echols said the panel typically includes representatives from Cure Violence, law enforcement, health services, religious organizations and people from the neighborhood where the program will operate. Echols said this step also works well as a screening tool.

“That, as my aides have said, their night is their day,” he said. “It means they are consistent in their efforts to really do good in the community. These are the people we want.

It will also be important that these people come from the “catchment area” that Cure Violence identifies as Peoria. Echols said these areas are identified by reviewing up to 10 years of shooting data, obtained by local health departments and law enforcement. The basis of the program is to prevent instances of violence in these areas through switches and outreach workers to create a ripple effect to reduce violence throughout the city. Echols said it draws inspiration from treating violence as a disease and approaching it from a public health perspective.

“This requires that we are able to know and identify the root cause that allows us to interrupt the transmission or spread of the disease. We are able to prevent the spread of the disease by helping individuals put implementing behavior change methods,” Echols said. “Then we change social norms so that the community as a whole can live safer, healthier lives.”

Program specialist Demeatreas Whatley explains the public education campaigns part of the Cure Violence program at Mon. October 3 Cure Violence 101 meeting at the Peoria Public Library.

Many of these root causes include what Cure Violence calls the “social determinants” of public health. These include access to education, health care, community participation and economic stability. Echols said areas defined as catchment areas often fall short of these key categories. The model includes local organizations to help meet some of these needs.

However, Cure Violence’s program is not limited to connecting organizations and hiring interrupters. There are also more than 40 hours of training for all stakeholders, plus 40 additional hours for people hired as managers or supervisors. There is also additional “refresher training” during the first year of the program. Cure Violence staff stay in the area for these training sessions, usually for about a month, and then conduct regular checks throughout the duration of the program.

Echols said the training program has been evaluated by the Department of Justice.

“We’re really here to listen to them and let them know what the model is, because the model is one thing,” Echols said. “But if we are not able to adapt the model to the area where the program is going to be implemented, then we will do an injustice to the community.”

Each of these decisions and parts of the program are based on data and evidence, he said.

“Research and evaluation are essential parts of any public health initiative,” he said. “It is therefore very important to ensure that we have a standardized tool to capture the data as well as a standardized methodology to analyze and evaluate the data collected.”

Cure Violence Assessment Phases.jpg
Program Director Brent Decker explains the phases of assessment before Cure Violence selects specific locations and plans for a city.

This extends to the local workers that Cure Violence hires; everyone is trained in collecting and reporting data so that it can be entered into a database and analyzed to determine the effectiveness of the program and whether the approach needs to change in any way.

Echols said this data is collected over years, so if Cure Violence comes to Peoria, it will be some time before there is any concrete information on the results. But there will be readiness assessment results much sooner. Echols said a full report on how Cure Violence plans to proceed will be released by the end of November.

It can happen in any jurisdiction as long as they have the right membership,” Echols said. “You have the right people doing the work, and you also have the right community organizations doing the work.

In the meantime, you can find more information about the program, including independent reviews and an overview of Cure Violence’s past work, here.

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