State, City Leaders Announce Group Violence Intervention (GVI) Project in Wilmington

Social service agencies will partner with law enforcement to prevent gun violence

WILMINGTON, Del. – State of Delaware social service agencies will partner with law enforcement to prevent gun violence in the City of Wilmington under a Group Violence Intervention (GVI) project announced by state and city leaders on Tuesday.

Governor John Carney joined Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki, Attorney General Kathy Jennings, Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy, and Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Kara Walker to announce their shared commitment to launching the evidence-based GVI strategy in Wilmington.   

Evidence shows that gun violence is concentrated among a small number of people at very high risk for both victimization and violent offending. The GVI strategy is intended to help these high-risk individuals avoid involvement in the criminal justice system, keep them safe, stabilize their lives, and create accountability for violence. DHSS, the Delaware Department of Correction, and the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families are among the agencies that will provide intervention services under the partnership.

“For any city to be successful, it needs to be safe,” said Governor John Carney. “Under the leadership of Mayor Purzycki and Chief Tracy, we’ve seen a significant reduction in gun violence in our city. But – as there are in all cities – there are still communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence in their neighborhoods. Those shootings traumatize children and families, and tear apart entire communities. We know that this gun violence is concentrated among a small group of people who are at very high risk for offending – but also at a very high risk for being victims of gun violence. We believe we can make a real difference if we are able to reach those at highest risk, and help them avoid involvement in the criminal justice system, keep them safe, and stabilize their lives. Thank you to Mayor Purzycki, Chief Tracy, Attorney General Jennings, Professor David Kennedy and many others for their partnership on this important work.”

“Wilmington is making significant gains regarding public safety,” said Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki. “We are a safer City today because we are policing the City differently, and that difference is largely because of the trust that has been built between the police department and our citizens. Chief Tracy has introduced new and effective layers to our policing methods in Wilmington and today we add another layer that can continue to improve lives and further reduce crime. My thanks to the Governor, to the Health and Social Services Secretary and to our criminal justice leaders for embracing this effort and to David Kennedy, Chief Tracy and former Chief Cummings who are deeply invested in making sure this initiative works for all of us.”

“This is a new day in Wilmington’s efforts to curtail violence in our neighborhoods,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “Through this initiative, we are recognizing the social and economic dynamics that so often drive violent crime, and we are disrupting those dynamics at their source. This program has shown remarkable promise in sharply reducing group violence and I am committed to its missions: protecting public safety, addressing the causes of anger and hopelessness that exist in our most underserved communities, and providing meaningful alternatives to those who would build a better life for themselves.”

The intergovernmental initiative will bring together state-level social service agencies with the Wilmington Police Department, the Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and community leaders in an effort to further and more significantly reduce homicide and shooting incidents in Wilmington. Intervention will be based on frontline knowledge, and real-time data on violence and individuals who face the highest risk of violence.

The GVI work will be led by Bobby Cummings, the former Wilmington Police Chief who has been appointed Director of Group Violence at the Department of Health and Social Services. The National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College, led by Professor David Kennedy, will provide technical assistance.

“Over the past several years, the Wilmington Police Department has embraced a range of proven, evidence-based policing strategies, with focused deterrence being key,” said Wilmington Police Chief Robert J. Tracy. “Implementing Group Violence Intervention – the next phase of our layered, comprehensive approach – carries the promise of achieving continued reductions in violent crime, while simultaneously offering support and wraparound services to those who embrace an alternative to engaging in gun violence.”

“We’re extremely excited to be working with Delaware and Wilmington to prevent homicide and gun violence,” said David Kennedy, Director of the National Network for Safe Communities at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “We’ve known and worked with Chief Tracy for years, and the commitment of the Governor’s Office puts Delaware amongst a small but growing number of states making an executive commitment to evidence-based public safety approaches. This work saves lives, keeps people out of the justice system, and builds trust between police and communities. We’re honored to be part of it.”

“As leaders, we all have a responsibility to alter the cycle of poverty, trauma and violence in order to keep individuals and families safe and healthy,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “The newly appointed Director of Group Violence Intervention in the Department of Health and Social Services will have the resources and the staffing support to meet the social services needs of the small number of people in Wilmington who are at a very high risk for both victimization and for violent offending.”

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DHSS Secretary Issues Statement on Potential Impact to Health & Social Services of Proposed Federal Immigration Change

NEW CASTLE (Oct. 23, 2018) – Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a board-certified family physician, is reassuring Delawareans that a proposed change to the public charge rule by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not affect current eligibility for health care and social services in Delaware, and that DHSS will work with community providers to address fears in the immigrant community about the proposed change.

The proposed rule seeks to change how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines whether immigrants – when seeking admission to the United States, an extension of their stay or a status change to become a legal permanent resident – are likely to become a public charge, or dependent on government services in the future. If individuals are determined to be a public charge, it may put their immigration status at risk.

Secretary Walker issued this statement on the proposed public charge rule, which is open for public comment on the Federal Register until Dec. 10, 2018:

“Along with Governor Carney’s office and the congressional delegation, DHSS is closely monitoring the proposed change to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s federal public charge rule, which could impact access to such essential services as health care and social services for people in Delaware’s immigrant communities. Eligibility criteria for such services as Medicaid, food benefits and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have not changed.

“We know that there are families – whether their children are U.S. citizens or not – who are afraid to access benefits for fear of what could happen to their immigration status later. The Department of Health and Social Services will work with local health care providers, advocates, community leaders and elected officials to address those fears.

“To build a healthier Delaware, we must reach people where they are and meet their needs, including prenatal care and birth delivery, pediatric care, childhood and adult nutrition, and immunizations, and by reducing emergency department visits and hospitalizations. We want everyone in our state to feel safe when they interact with the health care or social services system. We are here to serve all of the people of Delaware.”

The proposed changes would expand the list of programs that could impact public charge determinations to include non-emergency Medicaid, Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (food benefits) and housing assistance. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is also considering including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Reaction from Delaware Officials

“The Trump Administration’s recent ‘public charge’ proposal would go against American values by seeking to penalize immigrants who receive non-cash benefits for which they are eligible, including Medicaid, SNAP, or Section 8 housing,” Sen. Tom Carper said. “I have already joined a number of my colleagues in the Senate, including Sen. Coons, in expressing my grave concern regarding this proposal. Immigrants are indispensable to our continued economic growth – and we ought not to penalize these hardworking families for receiving short-term assistance while they pursue the American dream. I am grateful to Governor Carney and Secretary Walker for clarifying that immigrants remain eligible for these benefits until the rule goes into effect. In the meantime, I will continue to work with my colleagues to push back against this harmful proposal.”

“I thank Secretary Walker and Governor Carney for seeking to clarify some of the confusion surrounding the public charge proposal,” Sen. Chris Coons said. “It’s important to remember that the proposed rule has not been finalized and that eligibility criteria for programs like Medicaid, CHIP, and food benefits have not changed. I recently joined a number of my colleagues in the Senate, including Sen. Carper, in sending a letter to the Trump Administration, in which we expressed our grave concerns with the proposal that they put forward. We are hopeful that the Administration will heed our calls and know that we will be monitoring the situation closely.”

The Department of Health and Social Services will join with Governor John Carney’s office and other state agencies to monitor the proposed rule, study its potential impacts and work with community partners to support those populations affected in Delaware.

“Access to affordable health care provides families most in need with the opportunity to contribute to their community, thrive and reach their full potential, “ said Lolita Lopez, President & CEO of Westside Family Healthcare. “The proposed rule will likely result in Delawareans being deterred from addressing their health care needs, ultimately leading to worse health outcomes and increased costs for Delaware. As a patient-centered community health center serving 31,000 Delawareans each year, we seek to provide appropriate and meaningful access to care for all those who come through our doors. We fear this rule works in contrast to this longstanding goal.”

The public may submit comments to the Federal Register on the proposed rule change until Dec. 10, 2018. You can comment on the Federal Register website:
https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/10/10/2018-21106/inadmissibility-on-public-charge-grounds

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The Department of Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of life of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.