Gun violence in Massachusetts is concentrated in communities most impacted by racism and structural violence, which includes systemic denial of access to economic, educational, and employment opportunities. While Massachusetts consistently has one of the nation’s lowest firearm death rates, 39% of all victims of firearm-related injuries are between the ages of 15-24, and Black youth are 32 times more likely to be hospitalized due to firearm assault than their White counterparts. The lack of opportunity resultant from disinvestment in communities of color constrains young people’s choices and perpetuates the cycle of violence. A public health approach to youth violence requires stemming violent behavior while addressing upstream causes and centering racial equity, youth development, and trauma-informed practices. The state of Massachusetts has identified an urgent need to develop and sustain innovative programs for gun violence prevention and intervention in communities where youth and young adults are at elevated risk for violence involvement.
As a part of a multi-pronged approach to address this public health crisis, UTEC (an organization serving justice-involved young adults in the Merrimack Valley) and Health Resources in Action, in partnership with the Department of Public Health, launched the Gun Violence Prevention Training Center for Excellence (TC4E) in 2019. The TC4E delivers training, technical assistance, and network-building to DPH Gun Violence Prevention grantees — youth and young adult-serving, gun violence prevention organizations in high-need Massachusetts communities, including Boston, Springfield, Brockton, New Bedford, Lawrence, and Worcester. Using a public health approach grounded in racial equity, TC4E equips organizations to align best practices in street level intervention (streetwork), workforce development and mentorship, mental health, comprehensive needs assessment, and community mobilization.
The DPH Gun Violence Prevention grantees share a commitment to working with out-of-school youth and young adults, ages 17-24, who are most at risk of involvement in gun violence. Effective gun violence prevention organizations conduct streetwork that prevents, interrupts, and responds to violent incidents, while providing youth with services and opportunities. While the approach of each organization is community-specific, violence prevention professionals share unique experiences and challenges. By building a violence prevention network across the state, organizations may leverage their collective impact to advocate for systems-level solutions to gun violence in their communities.