Program helping children exposed to violent crime gains a federal partner Juvenile justice agency gives technical assistance to East Baltimore project

September 17, 1997|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

An East Baltimore program that counsels children who are exposed to violent crime now has a powerful partner, the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The agency, a division of the Department of Justice, will provide technical assistance to the Child Development Community Policing program, the only one of its kind in Baltimore.

The program, which began in April, involves police and therapists at Johns Hopkins Hospital's East Baltimore Mental Health Partnership. It seeks to prevent children who are victims of violence from becoming violent adults. It focuses on the Eastern District, a 4-square-mile area that suffers from high levels of street violence and domestic abuse.

Federal officials "have made a commitment to help us develop and evaluate the program," Dr. Raymond Crowel, who as director of the mental health partnership heads the counseling program, said yesterday.

Crowel said the federal agency announced its role in the program Monday at the first Child Development-Community Policing Program Conference, a two-day event held at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. The conference, which ended Monday, included child welfare experts and law enforcement officials who take part in similar initiatives across the country.

The Baltimore program pairs veteran street officers with clinicians.

When patrol officers respond to a crime scene where children are victims of or witnesses to violence, the police notify a clinician at the partnership, who visits the home, then determines the appropriate care for the youngster.

"Our goal is to train every patrol officer in the Eastern [District] and have clinicians who are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said police Sgt. Richard A. Hite Jr., a program official.

Money is the only obstacle.

The partnership finances a part-time clinical coordinator and a part-time clinician, but officials say at least two more full-time clinicians are needed. The federal government has promised technical assistance but has not allocated money to the program.

"Right now, most of the people who are working in the program donate time to the initiative, in addition to their full-time duties," 11 HTC said Burnett Morsell, a supervisor with the Hopkins partnership. "The program is still in its infancy stages. To become truly viable, we need to have a full-time staff."

About $366,000 is needed to hire full-time staff members and pay for training and evaluation of the program, Morsell said. With help from the federal agency, the Hopkins partnership is seeking private funding and government grants.

The Baltimore program is part of a nationwide effort. Police and therapists have engaged in similar ventures in Framingham, Mass.; Newark, N.J.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Portland, Ore.; Charlotte, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn. All of those initiatives and Hopkins' were modeled on a program that child psychiatrists at Yale implemented in New Haven six years ago.

In Baltimore, police officers, therapists and community members donate about two hours apiece each week, conferring on the emotional condition of children who have been exposed to violence. The counselors have helped 12 children.

"We believe that if the kids see we're interested and concerned enough to do something for them, they in turn will do something for themselves and East Baltimore will be a better place to live," said Phil Harrison, a neighborhood liaison at the partnership.

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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