ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — On Thursday morning, officials announced that Carilion Clinic, Family Service of Roanoke Valley, and Total Action for Progress (TAP) were awarded three unique grants — totaling $550,000 — from the U.S. Department of Justice aimed at addressing the impacts of gun violence in the Star City.

“This funding is meaningful for our community as we continue to address the complex issues that stem from gun violence,” said Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea. “These grants are an acknowledgment of the innovative, collaborative work being done right here in Roanoke.”

The city tells WFXR News that these grants stem from efforts at the state and national levels to support grass-roots gun violence prevention initiatives.

The Star City was a Virginia locality that observed one of the 10 largest increases in gun violence, according to the DOJ, underscoring the need for collaborative, creative, and long-term solutions.

By the numbers, the Roanoke Police Department reported a 21% increase in firearm-related crimes from 2020 to 2021. In addition, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital — the region’s only Level 1 trauma center — experienced a 48% increase in total gun-related injuries from 2019 to 2021, which includes patients from the entire region).

According to officials, each of the grants awarded is for a two-year period and aims at addressing the impacts of gun violence:

Carilion Clinic’s Violent Injury Recovery & Support Program (VIRS): $200,000

The City of Roanoke says it’s not unusual for Carilion’s trauma teams to respond to gun-related injuries on a daily basis.

However, Carilion Clinic is now launching the VIRS program to help survivors of gun violence beyond the bedside with assistance from a new team made up of intervention specialists, who will evaluate a patient’s needs when discharged; act as a care coordinator by connecting survivors with community resources that help them with “long-term, quality of life recovery,” such a mental health resources and housing; and stay in contact with patients and support their recovery for up to a year after discharge, according to officials.

“This allows us to look beyond a patient’s immediate physical needs and address disparities at the root of gun violence,” said Dan Freeman, RN, trauma services director for Carilion. “Care can and must extend beyond the walls of our trauma bay and hospital.”

This model of care is reportedly similar to Carilion’s successful Bridge to Treatment Program, which helps substance use disorder patients in finding treatment and other related services in the community.

In addition, Carilion is set to receive training and guidance from Virginia Commonwealth University, which created a similar program.

Family Service of Roanoke Valley’s EnVision Center Counseling: $150,000

In 2021, about 40% of Roanoke’s gun violence victims were in the northwestern part of the city, officials say. With its grant, Family Service of Roanoke Valley plans to provide readily accessible mental health support to northwest Roanoke residents.

The city tells WFXR News that the grant will fund a counselor stationed for five days a week at the EnVision Center next to Lansdowne Park in northwest Roanoke. Residents can make appointments or just drop-in for support.

“Our goal is to remove barriers to mental health support for Lansdowne Park residents,” said Linda Hentschel, president and CEO of Family Services. “By offering easy access to a counselor, we hope to build trust and relationships, helping to decrease the stigma of mental health services.”

TAP’s Gun Violence Emergency Relocation Project (GV-ER): $200,000

According to the City of Roanoke, TAP’s GV-ER project — which follows a model that has been successful for domestic violence victims — will focus on relocating low-income families from violence hot spots and/or unsafe living conditions that risk exposing them to further violence.

“This program is intended to fill a needed gap in local offerings, helping not only those directly impacted by gun violence but also secondary victims,” said Annette Lewis, president and CEO of TAP. “Relocation and supportive services help to give families a fresh start, proactively addressing multigenerational trauma.”

Officials say that GV-ER includes a scattered site housing-first approach to increase the safety of families at the highest risk of gun violence, as well as strong supportive services to address trauma. In addition, the project is set to provide affected families with supportive services to handle prior trauma, increase mental well-being, and help families sustain safe housing.

TAP is reportedly aiming to serve 12 to 24 families over the grant term.

You can watch the full press conference hosted by Star City officials and representatives from each of the organizations receiving the grants on Thursday, Sept. 1 below:

“A multifaceted issue like gun violence will require long-term thinking. Unfortunately, it’s not a problem that can be solved overnight,” said Roanoke City Councilman Joe Cobb, who also serves as the chair of the city’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission. “These initiatives are great examples of strategic collaboration to meet our community members where they are and address the residual impacts of gun violence.”

The Star City tells WFXR News that these grant recipients have a strong history of collaboration both in their daily operations and through the Gun Violence Prevention Commission. Therefore, the grants will build on those relationships as Roanoke administers the funds while Carilion, Family Service of Roanoke Valley, and TAP continue to work together to build programming, measure success, and provide feedback on evolving needs.

“With these grants, the fabric of our community’s response to gun violence gets stronger,” continued Cobb. “In a few months, when a gunshot wound victim comes to Carilion, she and her family might be connected to the counseling available at Lansdowne, or safe housing available through TAP. Those connections can mean the difference between someone getting caught in the culture of gun violence or breaking out of it. I’m optimistic about our community, and I’m confident we will break from this cycle.”

According to officials, the federal funding for each organization’s grant was allocated through the state-level initiatives described below:

  • Carilion’s grant was allocated through the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services’ (DCJS) Victim Services Grant Program as a Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs (HVIP) grant.
  • Family Service of Roanoke Valley’s grant was allocated through a VA Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Title II Grant.
  • TAP’s grant was allocated through the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice as a Community Based Gun Violence Intervention Program Grant.

If you want to learn more about the battle against gun violence in Roanoke, you can email the Gun Violence Prevention Commission at gvpc@roanoke.va.gov.