$1.8 Million Grant Aims To Prevent Violence Among Pittsburgh-Area Youth

The state grant for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania will provide teens across the region with mental health care, mentoring and leadership training.
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Experts believe more mental health care and mentoring programs can help curb the root causes of teen violence. That’s the goal behind the $100 million the state is disbursing across the commonwealth to focus on gun violence prevention programs, including $1.8 million to the  Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.

The money will provide no-cost mental health care, counseling services and in-person clinics to teens across five locations in Allegheny County.  

“The program and service plan will allow young people to be a positive member of their community while developing professional leadership and social emotional skills,” Kara Petrosky, senior director of community programs for the organization, said in a press release. “The funding will enable BGCWPA and partnering organizations to engage teens in services that help to prevent gun or group violence.” 

This initiative comes during a post-pandemic rise in violent crime in Pittsburgh, according to the press release. 

The city’s violent crime rates rose 4% in 2021 and continued to climb through 2022, according to Mayor Ed Gainey’s Plan for Peace proposal. The year 2021 clocked in at “an alarming” 56 homicides, shooting up from a historical low of 37 homicides in 2019. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, trauma experienced in early life can result in significant, long-lasting negative psychological, behavioral and social effects.

On Jan. 16, a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by another 13-year-old in Clairton, as reported by WPXI. According to the report, the victim was at home playing video games when the shooting occurred. Police arrested and charged the teen with criminal homicide and possession of a firearm by a minor.

The grant provides funding for mental health support staff in addition to a remote, mobile network of health care professionals available via an app. Additionally, the grant also makes BGCWPA mental health programming more accessible by providing free transportation to services.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs exists to help kids reach their potential and this critical funding will enable us to address a significant cause of teen violence — the lack of mental health and mentoring support,” said Chris Watts, president and CEO of the BGCWPA. “Together with our partners in this effort, Sarah Heinz House and Vitable Health, we will work to serve more teens in the communities that need it most, including Downtown Pittsburgh, the North Side and the Mon Valley.”

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