$5.9 million grant to expand youth violence prevention work in Denver

Published: Sept. 6, 2016 By
A girl receiving an award during a positive recognition campaign event in Montbello

The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder has received a five-year $5.9 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand its youth violence prevention work in two Denver neighborhoods.

The mission of the newly formed Denver Youth Violence Prevention Center is to reduce violence among 10- to 24-year-olds in Montbello and Northeast Park Hill. Both neighborhoods face struggles related to violence but also have people passionate about making a difference in their communities. The larger goal of the project is to develop a scalable, localized approach to empower communities to curb violence.

The grant, to begin Sept. 30, will support a multidisciplinary team of researchers, practitioners and community partners as they implement and evaluate a community-level prevention system that delivers community- and policy-level youth violence prevention strategies matched to local need.

Preventing and reducing the risk for youth violence remains a significant challenge for communities across the country, said Beverly Kingston, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence in the Institute of Behavioral Science and principal investigator.

“Many people in our communities are hurting from violence, trauma, substance abuse and unmet mental health needs,” Kingston said. “We know this can change. Just like we build roads and bridges, this project is about building a prevention infrastructure that strengthens the capacity of local communities to support and intervene on behalf of children, youth and families.”

Steps to Success

The initiative builds upon the five-year violence prevention efforts also run by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence called Steps to Success, a $5.4 million CDC partnership in Montbello that wraps up in 2016. Steps to Success is transitioning to a community-led non-profit but both programs will continue to intersect and support each other.

As did Steps to Success, the Denver Youth Violence Prevention Center will implement Communities That Care, an evidence-based, community-level prevention system that provides a data-driven framework for community decision-making.

Possible projects within the framework include: community-wide implementation of Safe2Tell; positive recognition campaigns for youth and adults to combat negative stereotypes or messaging; a social norming marketing campaign; and the creation of community gardens to strengthen pro-social bonds, engage youth and decrease health disparities. The selection of these projects will be made by the local community based on their data-driven priorities.

"(The award) gives us the ability to keep promises made early on, sustain strides made and strengthen relationships built in support of Montbello’s young people,” said Project Director Shelli Brown. “Our community partners have worked hard alongside us, and we hope to bring this type of energy and passion to Northeast Park Hill."

The grant also includes a push for a policy change to ensure that violence screening occurs in routine healthcare settings to identify high-risk youth so they can get the support they need.

“This new award will allow us to firmly establish the healthcare setting as a venue to address youth violence by identifying at-risk youth and connecting them to evidence-based interventions,” said Dr. Eric Sigel, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at the CU Anschutz School of Medicine/Children’s Hospital Colorado and a co-investigator on the project.

Sigel has been working with Denver Health medical practitioners to make violence prevention an issue that can be addressed through the health care setting.

Supporters of the project include: the Steps to Success Community Board, Denver Office of Children’s Affairs, Denver Public Safety Youth Programs, Gang Reduction Initiative of Denver, District 8 and 11 Council Offices, Families Forward Resource Center, True Light Baptist Church, Boys and Girls Club, Northeast Park Hill Coalition, Denver Police Department- Districts 2 and 5, and the Mental Health Centers of Denver.

More information 

Community members interested in being involved in the initiative can contact Project Director Shelli Brown at shelli.brown@colorado.edu.