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Birmingham to Expand Youth Violence Prevention Program with Nearly $2 Million Federal Grant

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A significant part of a recently acquired Department of Justice grant will go to the Jefferson County Family Resource Center for its RESTORE program, which offers mental health and case management services to Birmingham youths. (File)

By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson | For The Birmingham Times

The Birmingham City Council this week voted to give nearly $2 million from a federal grant to expand a local violence prevention program.

The majority of the Department of Justice grant will go to the Jefferson County Family Resource Center (JCFRC) to expand the age range for its RESTORE program, which offers mental health and case management services to Birmingham youths. The initiative currently serves children aged 15 to 19, but the grant will allow officials to expand the program to include children as young as 11.

Carrie Buntain, Executive Director of JCFRC and a former Alabama Assistant Attorney General, told the council that the RESTORE program — which stands for Reduce, Educate, Support, Train, Organize, Realize, Empower — celebrated a year of operation this month and has served more than 700 young people through its workshops.

“We opened up the workshops to younger individuals and probably about 20-to-25 percent of our participants and workshops are in this (younger) age range,” she said.

Buntain added, “We did just complete our 11-to-15-year-old needs assessments with 21 kids from seven of the housing communities in partnership with HABD (Housing Authority Birmingham Division) and BPD (Birmingham Police Department) and we were able to get some pretty great information.”

JCFRC assists in providing intake, assessments and case planning in working directly with families to help combat financial insecurity, housing instability or mental health concerns.

City Council President Darrell O’Quinn said the program focuses on an important demographic, “those that are most likely to be involved in in violent crime,” he said. “Without intervention, the best statistics show that they (at-risk youth) are likely to either murder or be murdered at something like an 80 percent rate,” he said.

The expansion of the program reaches “a pivotal moment in the child’s life,” Councilor Crystal Smitherman, said, adding, “It’s not just policing and dealing with crime because the police are only there to react, we have to do prevention and intervention as well.”

RESTORE will receive $1.1 million of the $2 million grant. According to city officials, the remaining money will go to other agencies involved in the initiative as well as a project coordinator.