The Gap in City Services

The Current Gap in City Services – Reaching the Highest Risk

When it comes to urban violence, cities around the world are facing a common problem – they cannot get people who are at highest risk for involvement in violence to enroll in programs designed to help them.  As a result, billions of dollars have been poured into programs that seldom reach those with the greatest need.

Great improvements to our schools might provide an alternate path to the high risk  – but the highest risk often do not attend school.  Great drug treatment, GED, and job training programs might help too – but the highest risk are often either not aware of the programs, not trusting of social service agencies, or not ready to stop using drugs or to get a job.

If you cannot reach those at greatest risk for involvement in violence, then you are not going to be able to reduce violence.

However, there is a method to connect the highest risk people with the services that can help them: the health method to preventing violence.  The many aspects of the health model are detailed in the Cure Violence website – but one key aspect of this model is that it addresses this current gap in city services – the provision of services to the highest risk.

What the health method does – that is not currently being done in most cities – is to identify the individuals most likely to be involved in violence, and provide a method for treating these people.  First, the health method uses data on violence to develop criteria to identify those at highest risk for involvement in violence.  Second, culturally appropriate workers are deployed to identify the highest risk in a community and treat these individuals utilizing a risk reduction plan specific to their needs, often involving the utilization of existing social services in a community. The use of culturally appropriate workers is key for several reasons, including their trust and access among the high-risk and their knowledge of the community.

The health-based approach to violence prevention is a very key piece to solving this puzzle.  Without it, a gap in services emerges resulting in those at highest risk being unaddressed and billions of dollars invested in communities having limited effects. The health-based approach can fill this gap by identifying who needs services the most and ensuring that they get the treatment that is needed.