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The state Commission on Crime & Delinquency has added more than a half-million dollars to programs designed to curb gun violence and substance abuse in the Mon Valley.
Grants announced this week to the city of McKeesport and three local agencies will build on already successful programs, said state and local officials.
Officials said the city is currently in year three of the McKeesport Gun Violence Reduction Program, a five-year plan that includes community outreach, early intervention programs for youth and teen-agers, and additional resources for police and other law-enforcement agencies.
“The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency has been extremely supportive of the efforts taking place in McKeesport to curb the addiction to crime and violence,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said.
“This additional funding announced (Wednesday) continues the city of McKeesport’s program through June 2022,” he said. “Our hope is that these initiatives that PCCD is funding will continue for years to come.”
Funding announced this week by PCCD includes:
Center for Victims, $225,000 – Center for Victims will enhance and expand its Family & Community Support Team. The grant money will be used to find staff in the communities the program serves, provide immediate crisis response services and tailored support services for individuals and families affected by violence.
City of McKeesport, $50,500 – The City of McKeesport will use the grant funds to support the McKeesport Gun Violence Reduction Project. The project provides young adults with productive alternatives to street life, engages them positive life-learning experiences, and gives at-risk individuals an opportunity to be stakeholders in the McKeesport Community.
Healthy Village Learning Institute, $211,680 – Healthy Village Learning Institute will use the grant funding for its P.O.W.E.R. (Positive Outcomes With Excuses Removed) Prevention Program in McKeesport, Duquesne and Clairton. The program’s goal is to decrease gun use/abuse, increase self-esteem, improve family functioning, increase decision-making, develop problem-solving skills, improve academic performance and increase community awareness of negative factors affecting youth and young adults.
Three Rivers Youth Inc., $100,000 – Three Rivers Youth Inc. will use the funding awarded through the Federal State Opioid Response Funds to plan, develop and implement LifeSkills Training in McKeesport and Sto-Rox school districts.
“Young people in underserved communities within the Mon Valley have alternatives to gun violence and substance use,” said state Rep. Austin Davis, whose office released details of the grants. “The funding awarded to these programs will help them continue to provide resources, skills and experiences to our youth that will help guide them toward a better future.”
City officials said previous PCCD funding to McKeesport has included direct support for purchasing police equipment, including license-plate recognition cameras and vehicles used in saturation patrols of neighborhoods plagued by gun or drug crimes.
The money is not used to pay for the patrols themselves, officials said, which are done by McKeesport police, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, the state Attorney General’s Office and other local, county and regional agencies.
Additionally, city officials said, PCCD funding has helped support Healthy Village Learning Institute, founded by Keith Murphy, and his employees as they lead conflict resolution workshops and anti-violence training in partnership with McKeesport Area School District, Auberle, the LaRosa club, churches and other community groups.
The mayor’s office said the institute encourages youth and young adults who are already making good choices to be positive peers, and reaches out to at-risk teens to provide mentorship.
“We’ve worked with Keith Murphy and the Healthy Village Learning Institute as a consultant to our own programs, to engage with schools, Auberle, the LaRosa club and other community groups,” Cherepko said. “We’re obviously extremely pleased to see Mr. Murphy directly receiving funding, so that he can take his expertise and continue to build his new model for early violence intervention and prevention.”
Other agencies participating in the McKeesport Gun Violence Reduction Program include the Allegheny County Health Department, Allegheny County Juvenile Probation, Pennsylvania Adult Probation, McKeesport Housing Authority, McKeesport Area School District, the Healthy Communities PartnerSHIP, McKeesport Area Ministerium and the office of Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi.
In all, more than $2.6 million in PCCD grants were awarded this month to several organizations across Allegheny County that are dedicated to breaking cycles of violence and substance abuse in their communities, Davis said.
Originally published September 10, 2021.