Read the original article in the Dayton Daily News.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
DAYTON - An area group aiming to prevent violence is treating it as a public health issue.
United Against Violence of Greater Dayton - a group of more than 90 local social service, educational, health care and law enforcement agencies - is adding Dayton to the number of urban areas throughout the country using the UNITY model to treat the symptoms of violence, particularly among younger people, to prevent it from occurring.
"We are all affected by violence," Sue McGatha, president and CEO of Samaritan Behavioral Health, said Tuesday, May 11, in releasing the group's five-year strategic plan.
"This is a rare opportunity ... to provide leadership and bring together the community," she said.
For 10 months, leaders from agencies as disparate as the YWCA and the Dayton Police Department have worked together to coordinate and consolidate each group's effort at promoting violence prevention into a single initiative, said Susan Elias, director of development for Samaritan Behavioral Health, which is sponsoring the effort.
"The agencies would not stop doing what they're doing, but we would all be on a common ground," Elias said.
A similar initiative in Minneapolis cut violent crime by 40 percent in four targeted neighborhoods - all of which led the city in homicides - over two years.
"We have created a robust partnership to create a culture that supports youth," said Bass Zanjani, the violence prevention coordinator for Minneapolis. "We are now looking at violence as a developmental problem. We look at the symptoms and address them one at a time, just as one would eliminate or control a disease."
The Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) model was developed by the Oakland, Calif.-based Prevention Institute, Harvard School of Public Health and the UCLA School of Public Health as a broad-based approach to deal with youth and violence by coordinating and targeting existing services and creating opportunities, in Elias' words, "to have the biggest impact."
"Research shows those cities that use greater coordination and collaboration on the problem have lowered the risk of violence," said Rachel Davis, Prevention Institute's project manager for UNITY. "No one group can do it alone."
The institute is funded through the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Davis described the project as a national initiative to support cities trying to change the conditions that contribute to violence.
By bringing together agencies that deal with children, families, victims, perpetrators and neighborhoods, it mirrors a public health prevention initiative, she said.
"And we know prevention works," Davis said.
Toward that end, United Against Violence this year launched a school-based program in 11 schools in Montgomery County covering 700 fifth- and sixth-graders to deal with bullying and developing healthy relationships, Elias said.
The students will be studied next year to see what effect the curriculum had on their attitudes and behaviors.
What it comes down to in the end is "ensuring every young person has a caring adult in their life," Davis said.