The recent mass shooting in New Orleans in which 19 people were wounded while participating in a Mother’s Day parade brought national attention to the city and its murder statistics.
With 199 murders in 2011 and 193 in 2012 New Orleans had over 8 times the shooting rate of other cities in America.
Since Feb 2013 the city government has been operating on an official plan called “NOLA – A Comprehensive Murder Reduction Strategy”. Mayor Mitch Landrieu states in its introduction that his top priority is to end the cycle of death and violence on the streets of New Orleans, and to create a culture that celebrates life.
Meanwhile, John Ritchie, a New Orleans resident and film maker, was creating a documentary called “Shell Shocked – A Documentary About Growing Up in the Murder Capital of America”
“The film is about youth, violence and environment.
I didn’t know what was more shocking, the enormity of how murder has affected our young or my blindness to it. Like Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said, “This is our society’s biggest problem. The situation is unnatural, and what we are fighting for is the heart and soul of the city.”
In a June 3rd article called “Looking for Solutions in Mother’s Day Mass Shooting” Mr. Ritchie explains that as he had learned so much making the film, people starting asking him what the solution was.
He realized that mentoring programs he had seen working so well might be the answer, as they give youth who do not have anything to do somewhere to go and ensure that they are focusing their energies into something positive.
He called upon all concerned people to volunteer time or money to any of the 31 community programs he lists in his article.
Who has the best solutions – The City of New Orleans government or the grassroots community groups?
The Mayor’s plan does call for supporting community groups but there is one major difference between the solution proposed by the city fathers and the solution proposed by John Ritchie. Community mental health programs play a big part in the City of New Orleans’ official plan.
When everyday citizens, business people, churches and non-profits, get together to solve something, they truly want to help others. When funding arrives from a source connected to psychiatric mental health programs, it’s likely that another agenda besides real help is underway.
In “NOLA – A Comprehensive Murder Reduction Strategy” we learn that New Orleans was one of 5 cities to receive a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, a charitable institute created by Mike Bloomberg, the wealthy three term Mayor of New York who has upset many New Yorkers with his interventions into their eating and smoking habits.
Bloomberg Philanthropies funds The Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University where The Master of Science in Public Health Degree includes a Social and Behavioral Interventions program. Faculty and students from this college partner with the John Hopkins Medical Institution psychiatric staff.
This leads to the Global Mental Health Collaborative Group whose mission is “to develop and implement strategies to address the mental health needs identified by low-resource, under served communities in the US and around the world.” For example, it establishes community-based mental health services for families and children in Native American tribes.
Their websites explain that even though infectious and parasitic diseases are prominent in developing countries, it’s logical and equally important that these people get mental health treatment (i.e. psychiatric drugs and electric shocks) to really make it into the modern world.
Perhaps the Bloomberg grant money is a coincidence, but we see that mental health is heavily supported in New Orleans’ plan to reduce mass shootings:
- Reduce murders by “protecting mental health services”
- To prevent murder, New Orleans needs a more accessible mental health system.
- Create a Behavioral Health Resource Guide to provide a comprehensive inventory of all mental health and substance abuse services and related resources available to the citizens of New Orleans.
- Ensure community access to support those who have experienced violent trauma. This collaborative process will increase and fund evidence-based, trauma interventions, such as Psychological First Aid (PFA) and Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR). ..
- Immediately increase needs-based access to behavioral health services for those individuals with mental health/substance abuse needs
Without government support psychiatrists and their community mental health programs would fade away as they don’t work. The public would never think up the idea of treating people already living in an environment of guns and street drugs by giving them harmful psychiatric drugs known to produce violence and death.
Here are a few of the workable solutions being used successfully by some of the groups listed by John Ritchie:
Apex Youth Center – Always Pursuing Excellence
This group offers tutoring and homework help, job training, community service activities, daily nutritious snacks, a sit down supper, team sports, music, dance, writing, visual art, acting, film and stage production and internet development.
Grow Dat Youth Farm
This group nurtures a diverse group of young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food. They have a farm where young people are paid to work and produce food for the community.
Their help wanted ad says: “Want to start taking responsibility for your life?”
They hire young adults ages 17-21 who are serious about learning on-the-job skills in the kitchen and on the floor of a fully operating restaurant. They also help youth figure out life skills essential for being a successful adult.
They only hire those not attending school, from a low-income family and who are either a past offender, lower-than-average educational level or pregnant or parenting. They must pass a drug test. Graduates get a food handler’s certificate to work in New Orleans and help with their resume.
The Roots of Music
The Roots of Music fills a void in music education programs in New Orleans schools. Marching bands were once an integral part of New Orleans middle schools but after Katrina, many schools discontinued their music programs for this age group. Today the Roots of Music serves over 100 students, making up a full marching band that has successfully paraded the city since Mardi Gras 2009.
Their program provides music history and theory as well as instrumental instruction and ensemble performance preparation. They also provide academic tutoring, mentoring and homework assistance. Roots of Music clearly lists its objectives for the students and the statistics it uses to measure its success.
Each One Save One
They have 3 programs.
One Child at a Time – which pairs volunteer mentors with children in schools in the city and includes mentorship of children whose parents are jail.
Making A Difference Mentor Training Program – This program provides training to other organizations and churches within the Greater New Orleans Area that wish to start or have existing mentor programs
New Orleans Public Library Partnership and Healthy Initiatives – A mentoring program to providing mentor relationships in 3 public library branches.
They offer life skills and job training programs to assist young people (ages 16–22) from severely at-risk communities who desire to make a positive change in their lives. Using their restaurant, catering service, and many other programs they work with young people who possess a deep desire to break the cycle of generational poverty, violence and neglect and become productive, contributing members of society.
NFL Youth Education Town New Orleans (NFL YET)
This is an educational and recreation center constructed in Super Bowl host cities as the lasting legacies of the games. In order to positively impact the lives of youths living in troubled neighborhoods in Super Bowl Cities, the NFL donates $1 million toward each NFL YET project. The funding continues from local public and private funds so the facility remains long after the Super Bowl is over.
STAIR (Start the Adventure in Reading)
This group is a one on one after school program teaches kids mostly 2nd graders to read.
For the 2012-2013 school year, on average STAIR students’ scores in Oral Reading Fluency increased 106% and 87% on the two tests used in New Orleans
New Orleans Outreach
Rather than approaching a school with a set agenda, this group finds out exactly what resources are needed to help those students succeed and then goes out and finds those resources. It could be after school cooking, dance or computer classes, tutoring, beautifying the school grounds, job search skills, career options or a healthy eating, nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle program
Parents, grandparents, college and high school students, business professionals, public servants, artists, and other interested community members volunteer through Outreach in order to help improve public education.
Rather than the millions spent by government agencies to supply psychiatric drugs mass shootings “prevention”, a better solution could be many grassroots groups showing at risk youth there is a better life available if they want to reach for it. As one wise man in John Ritchie’s film said, “A kid can’t be what he can’t see.”