ROANOKE, Va. – On Thursday, Roanoke City leaders announced the latest efforts to curb gun violence.
Three organizations received $550,000 through state and federal funding to help treat gun violence patients even after they leave the hospital, re-house victims of gun violence, and provide mental health services
“This funding is so meaningful to our community as we continue to address gun violence,” said Mayor Sherman Lea.
Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital is the region’s only Level 1 trauma center. It has seen a 48 percent jump in gun-related injuries since 2019. The hospital received $200,000 to launch the Violent Injury Recovery & Support Program.
Intervention specialists will evaluate a patient’s needs, connect them with community resources, and stay in contact with them to support their recovery for up to a year after discharge.
“These counselors come into the hospital and start the process of getting them back to their community in a safe, physical environment, in an environment where emotionally they can handle the next steps of what they need to do. Whether that’s something as simple as securing a job or just understanding how the violence affected them and their family,” said Dr. Bryan Collier, Carilion Clinic’s medical director of trauma. “Otherwise at a great risk of repeating that cycle and we will just see them back in the hospital.”
Total Action for Progress received $200,000 to relocate 12 families who have been victims of gun violence.
“We relocate them to a safe housing location. And that’s where their families can now heal and live a safe, violence-free life,” said Annette Lewis, TAP’s president, and CEO.
$150,000 is going to Family Service of Roanoke Valley to launch mental health counseling at the EnVision Center in northwest Roanoke.
“If they have to bring children with them, if they have to bring babies with them, whatever we have to do so that we are able to provide the service they need that day at that time, we’re willing to do that,” said Linda Hentschel, the president and CEO of Family Service of Roanoke Valley.
Since 2019, Roanoke has received more than $3 million to combat gun violence.
However, the Roanoke City Police Department reported a 21 percent increase in firearm-related crimes from 2020 to 2021.
Councilman Joe Cobb, who sits on the Gun Violence Prevention Commission, said he thinks this latest grant will make a difference.
“Do you think this is just sort of throwing money at the problem again?” asked 10 News reporter Lindsey Kennett.
“No, I don’t,” said Cobb. “This is an investment in addressing the problem. It’s a long-term relationship that we’re talking about here. While we all want some very quick fixes to what we’re seeing, the reality is we’ve got to change culture, we’ve got to change relationships, we’ve got to invest in our relationships with each other. So by offering these services through responding, through intervening, and through preventing gun violence, we’re going to make a long-term difference.”
William Dungee spoke during the city’s news conference and said he’s seen the devastation of gun violence firsthand.
Dungee lost his son seven months ago, and now, he works as a mentor with the city’s R.E.S.E.T. team, going into neighborhoods after shootings to meet with community members.
Dungee said the new grant funding is a start, but the entire community needs to be accountable.
“I feel that we need to stop saying ‘I’ because I can’t do it. It has to be ‘we,’” said Dungee. “Yes, this is the right step, but we definitely need more.”