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VCU receives nearly $1 million grant to help prevent gun violence in Richmond

Congressman McEachin delivers nearly $1 million to VCU for it's Gun Violence Prevention...
Congressman McEachin delivers nearly $1 million to VCU for it's Gun Violence Prevention Framework program.(NBC12)
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 9:26 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 12:07 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Commonwealth University will use nearly $1.4 million from the federal level to tackle gun violence prevention and supporting early childhood educators.

On Thursday, Congressman Donald McEachin (D – 4th Congressional District) presented the two separate checks to VCU.

Nearly $1 million will help kickstart VCU’s RVA Gun Violence Prevention Framework, to help establish an evidence-based gun violence public health response.

The goal is to identify the behaviors and signs of gun violence, then find solutions to prevent any shots from being fired.

In the last three years, VCU Level 1 Trauma Center’s Medical Director, Dr. Michel Aboutanos, said the number of shooting victims has jumped 121%.

“Isaiah Lee, a black man killed March 29,” read Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin.

The latter just one of 15 names read aloud by McEachin. Each of them is a homicide victim tied to the unfortunate rise in violence across the metro area.

“No death goes in vain,” Aboutanos said. “Every death speaks to us. What we do is to honor those who didn’t make it and do something different.”

Aboutanos and others at VCU hope to combat the spike in shootings and killings through the RVA Gun Violence Prevention Framework. It’s a program designed to identify and address what they say are the underlying social, economic and systemic factors that contribute to gun violence.

“We can’t just sit back and just treat, to street, only to treat again,” Aboutanos said.

“There’s no one solution to gun violence,” Congressman McEachin said. “This is another tool in the toolbox we can use to hopefully ameliorate the impacts of gun violence and fix it.”

While the number of shooting victims coming into trauma centers has increased over the years, Aboutanos added their injuries are more severe as well.

“Just recently we had one kid who was shot 16 times, so it’s a different form of violence that we’re seeing and has huge impacts,” he said.

The Congressman secured nearly $1 million in federal funds for the project, however, the effort needs widespread involvement.

“If we work collectively together, people who do crisis intervention in the hospital, people who do violence interruptions both in the emergency rooms and capable messengers in the community, now it becomes a whole community response,” Aboutanos said.

“Richmond is sick and tired of shootings and killings and gun violence,” Colette McEachin said. “VCU, we’re coming to the hospital, and we’re coming to work with you.”

In just the last week, 12 families in Central Virginia have had their lives changed forever by gun violence.

“When I go down to talk to the family, talk to the friends, we’re seeing others who don’t know how to react to fact that their loved on has been shot, their best friend has been killed,” Aboutanos said. “They don’t have the means to deal with the death. What we’re doing right now is just letting them be. We can’t afford that, the violence interrupters interrupt that cycle, walk with them through this path in order for them to not be involve in the cycle.”

Meanwhile, $400,000 was given to VCU’s RTR Teacher Residency Early Childhood Pathway. It’s a program seeking to support recruitment and training efforts of early childhood educators across Central Virginia.

“High quality, early childhood education has been shown to dramatically enhance youth’s cognitive, psychological, and emotional development and better prepare them for their primary education,” McEachin said. “Our teachers deserve a robust program that prepares them for their careers and supports them along the way.”

“This community project funding to launch a new pipeline to recruit, support, train and retain high quality early childhood teachers in Central Virginia public schools will be critically beneficial,” said Dr. Andrew Daire, Ph.D., the Dean of VCU’s School of Education.

According to Daire, the university already has a similar program in place.

“RTR is a highly selective graduate teacher residency program that recruits, trains and supports teachers for high needs in hard to staff schools,” he said. “The opportunity to expand this into early childhood development is critically important.”

For more information on the programs, click here.

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