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Council formed to implement CDC report recommendations

Tom Byrne/Delaware Public Media

  Wilmington City Council and the public received a briefing Wednesday night on the state’s response to recommendations on last November’s CDC report on Wilmington gun violence.

Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf updated work being done in response to the report, which analyzed the lives of 569 individuals involved in violent activity over a five-year period. It found key risk factors that indicate a child would likely be involved in violence in the future.

Those factors include living in impoverished conditions, struggles with school work, being abused as a child, and exposure to violence.

“You know many of those individuals were actually victims first. Over half actually had some level of assault that was committed on them,” Landgraf said.

Landgraf says the CDC report suggested tracking events tied to these factors, such as students being suspended or dropping out of school, to identify youth in need of early intervention. That intervention would come in the form of a highly integrated and coordinated plan, with Health and Social Services working in concert with neighborhood, faith-based, school-based and employment-based groups and programs.

At the CDC’s urging, an 33 person advisory council has been created.  The group - which includes, healthcare professional, educators, community activists, students, and others is tasked with helping find ways to obtain needed data and share it, while developing coordinated and customized services for youth who need them the most.

The advisory council gets to work later this month.  It’s first goal: examine existing resources available for at-risk kids in the community.

Eventually, they’ll devise a plan for how to integrate services. Officials also concede legal approval before data gathering and sharing begins.

But some community members, like Bill Pearson, worry goals for the council are too lofty.

“I come to these meetings frequently and there’s always wonderful talk, lectures and very high level solutions,” Pearson said. “The common problem is nobody boils it down to a project with tasks, activities, scheduling - which means a date when it’s going to start.”

Wilmington City Council member Hanifa Shabazz says she recognizes it’s a massive project.

“You heard what Secretary Landgraf said: they didn’t give us an operating process,” Shabazz said. “If they didn’t give us that process, then we don’t necessarily have a standardized model to go by. And it’s for the community. That’s why we have the advisory council to come up with that process.”

However, Shabazz is hopeful that the CDC’s findings will help the city realize what’s needed in order to address the current climate of violence.

“We need to change our service delivery. We need to change how we do it, we need to change how we assess,” Shabazz said. “There was so many opportunities that we had to gain intervention for that child but what did we do? And evidently what we did do did not stop them from going forward with committing that crime. So that means that what we did do was not sufficient. And we’re the professionals.”

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