Funding for Youth Violence Prevention: The Impact of VISTA Service

May 23, 2016
E.Raskin bio picture
Ziz Raskin

Ziz Raskin is a CHC VISTA member serving with the Minneapolis Health Department (MHD). She grew up in eastern Massachusetts and has an undergraduate degree in French and a minor in Gender, Feminist, and Sexuality Studies from Oberlin College. She also completed an internship at the Center of Rixensart in Belgium where she developed curricula for asylum seekers. Recently her VISTA project contributed to MHD receiving a grant in a very unusual way. To learn more about Ziz and the impact of her service, keep reading below!

What drew you to serve with MHD?

I was drawn to MHD, particularly the Youth Violence Prevention work, due to the intersectional approach to health disparities. Integrated into the work is the knowledge that emotional and physical health and wellness are impacted by the environment and resources available to the community. I have very much enjoyed learning alongside and contributing to the Youth Violence Prevention efforts.

Describe your role at MHD. What are the main projects you’re working on and what are the overarching goals of the VISTA project?

The [AmeriCorps] VISTA project at MHD – Youth Violence Prevention is designed broadly to expand the capacity of their youth violence prevention efforts. In the first six months, I have been able to design an evaluation tool for a pilot program, research evidence-based practices during program development, and develop a data system for program sustainability.

However, my primary project at MHD is development of a hospital-based youth violence intervention program. In partnership with the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), MHD is in the process of developing and implementing a hospital-based youth violence intervention program focused on increasing access to community-based and psychosocial resources for youth who present to HCMC with violent injuries. Often young people who present to the hospital with a violent injury are treated with great physical care, sometimes within a matter of hours, however we would like to increase support to physiological and psychosocial resources. This program, the Minneapolis Youth Violence Intervention Program (MYVIP), will offer both immediate and long-term support to young people by providing immediate crisis intervention and support as well as long term case management services.

MYVIP recently received a grant in a very unique way. How did this happen?

One Monday morning a couple of months ago, I received an e-mail from Youth Alive!, an organization based in Oakland that provides technical assistance to the National Network of Hospital based Violence Intervention Programs (NNHVIP). I learned that a potential funder was invested in the creation of a hospital-based program in Minneapolis, specifically at the HCMC. They’d reached out to the NNHVIP to see if anyone was doing that work already. During MHD’s ongoing development work NNHVIP has been involved, so NNHVIP referred the potential funder to us. My supervisor Josh Peterson and I promptly set up a meeting with the grants director, during which she outlined their interest in supporting meaningful efforts already underway. After hearing about the significant work MHD had already undertaken with HCMC, she suggested that there may be grant funds available that could serve as seed money to start a pilot program at HCMC. I worked with Josh to craft a project narrative, work plan, and budget that we submitted. The funder accepted the proposal and awarded us a $50,000 grant for developing and implementing a pilot program.

This is a pretty incredible moment for MYVIP, and it was unique and fortuitous the way everything aligned so well. This program has been in the making for over four years. When I look back at the body of work produced by the first year and second year VISTA thus far to support its implementation, I can see why this program never would have gotten off the ground before. It is a massive project that requires creating partnerships across two institutions – the City of Minneapolis (local government) and the Hennepin County Medical Center (the largest health care provider in the City) – that both have their own unique set of projects, frameworks, and procedures. Both might have intersecting missions – improving the health and wellness of the community – however creating a program in partnership across institutions takes persistence and a lot of preparation work. VISTA members have been able to provide that support for hospital-based intervention.

This exemplifies how the work of a VISTA can truly be the difference between the idea of a program and its implementation. Without the hours of research of evidence based practices, drafting program models, and conversations with hospital based intervention programs in cities across the country completed prior to this meeting, the connection with the funder may never have happened. I am truly amazed by this process and the importance of the role of a VISTA throughout this work.

How will this grant enhance MYVIP services?

This grant is the seed money for MYVIP. It has jump-started program implementation and will allow us to begin providing services to youth in Minneapolis in the coming months. We are currently working closely with HCMC to iron out some logistics, such as the staffing model and procedures, however full implementation is close! Additionally, this grant will position us to apply for other grants as we will be able to show the positive impact it had on individual youth and families in Minneapolis.

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