VCU Health is partnering with the Richmond Police Department and other community members to introduce RVA Alternative Pathways, an intervention program to reduce youth violence in the city.
The program was launched with a Robins Foundation Community Innovation Grant (CIG), a non-profit working to steer at-risk youth toward success.
The announcement comes as the city’s homicide rate lingers at 2016 levels, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which were the highest Richmond had seen in more than a decade.
The partnership, along with other CIG recipients, seek to reverse this trend. The Robins Foundation also provided half a million dollars earlier this year for the Richmond Public Schools Resiliency Partnership, a collaboration between ChildSavers and other youth advocacy groups to provide students in Richmond’s East End with trauma-informed support services.
RVA Alternative Pathways combines two existing programs. VCU Health’s Emerging Leaders program connects patients at VCU Medical Center’s pediatric emergency room and adolescent clinic to mentoring and internships there. The LIFE program also offers an alternative to the juvenile justice system for Richmond Public School students who commit minor legal offenses. However, participants are instead given the opportunity to enroll in classes taught by RPD officers on subjects such as conflict resolution and substance abuse.
“There are a lot of organizations in Richmond that do great jobs, but we don’t share information,” said RPD Deputy Chief Steve Drew in a statement. “With RVA Alternative Pathways, we are going to open communication so that everyone can take part in the intervention of these young people and hopefully put them on a new direction in life.”
As part of the RVA Alternative Pathways proposal, LIFE graduates would then be able to enroll in the Emerging Leaders program. In addition, health and police officials would be able to share resources and information to better address participants’ needs. The hope is this broader network will help stem the problems associated with youth violence by giving kids in ‘emerging’ communities a leg up.
“The Foundation could not deny the impact each of the initiatives would have on the future of the Richmond community,” said Robins Foundation Board Vice President Juliet Shield-Taylor. “With the efforts proposed by each, the children win and the transformation begins.”
Early intervention is key to transforming communities, according to Tracie Mooneyham, Special Projects Coordinator at the Robins Foundation.
“Changing the trajectory of young lives in the region has a rippling effect for Richmond,” Mooneyham said, adding that countless community partners are working to do exactly that.
The first Robins Foundation CIG was awarded to Church Hill Activities and Tutoring more than three years ago, to help provide job training, marketable skills and employment opportunities for young people in the Church Hill neighborhood.
Mooneyham said ever since then, it’s become increasingly apparent that partnerships and collaborative thinking are the drivers of much-needed change in the Richmond metro region.
“As we have seen with those who rise to top of this process, collaborating with other organizations can be leveraged to great effect when it comes to building a feasible and sustainable solution to some of the region’s biggest issues,” Mooneyham said.