Governor Hochul Announces Expansion of State’s SNUG Street Outreach Program to Niagara Falls, Schenectady and Utica to Reduce Gun Violence
New York (STL.News) Governor Kathy Hochul announced $1.5 million in state funding to support three new SNUG Street Outreach programs in Niagara Falls, Schenectady and Utica. Secured by Governor Hochul in this year’s State Budget, this funding will allow SNUG to expand from 12 to 15 communities across New York. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services seeks proposals from nonprofit organizations interested in operating the program, which focuses on mediating conflicts, mentoring youth and working with residents and organizations to change community norms about gun violence. Organizations that are selected will receive up to $500,000 to establish the program in each city.
“New York State will continue to use all the resources at our disposal to combat gun violence and violent crime on our streets,” Governor Hochul said. “The SNUG Street Outreach program deploys violence interrupters to mediate conflict, mentor youth and work with local partners, and it is a critical component in our comprehensive approach to public safety. I am proud to expand the program’s reach to these communities, and we will continue to take strong action to end the scourge of gun violence and usher in a safer New York for all.”
The SNUG Street Outreach program is a key part of Governor Hochul’s comprehensive plan to address gun violence, which has increased in communities across the state and nation since 2020. Funded and supported by DCJS, the program uses a public health approach to prevent and reduce gun violence by identifying its source, interrupting transmission and treating it by engaging communities and connecting individuals to critical services and support. DCJS today also released a video showcasing the SNUG program and its work with participants.
Nonprofit organizations and hospitals interested in operating the program must respond to this request for proposals by noon on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. Grants are anticipated later that month. Niagara Falls, Schenectady and Utica will join 12 other communities in the State’s current SNUG network: Albany, the Bronx, Buffalo, Hempstead, Mt. Vernon, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Syracuse, Rochester, Troy, Wyandanch and Yonkers.
Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Rossana Rosado said, “Our SNUG teams play a crucial role in combating gun violence. By working with youth and young adults most at risk and linking them with alternatives and opportunities, we can change lives. SNUG also provides meaningful employment and a career path for individuals formerly involved in the criminal justice system. Credible messengers employed by the program connect with SNUG participants, and having faced many of the same obstacles, help them overcome. We need youth and young adults in the communities hardest hit by gun violence to recognize their worth and see their potential for growth — and that is what SNUG does.”
New York State Office of Gun Violence Prevention Director Calliana S. Thomas said, “Expansion of the state’s SNUG Street Outreach Program further illustrates Governor Hochul’s commitment to helping communities prevent and reduce gun violence. SNUG staff not only identify and diffuse situations before they become violent, but they provide access to services and support that allow program participants, families and communities to address trauma, build resilience and move forward.”
Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said, “We are proud to partner with DCJS to provide trauma-informed counseling and case management services to communities served by SNUG. Governor Hochul’s commitment of state funding to expand this program to three new cities will help further bridge the service gap in communities struggling with high rates of gun violence. I look forward to continued collaboration with my state agency partners to support innovative programs that meet the needs of all victims and survivors of crime.”
Mayor of Utica Robert Palmieri said, “No government can solve problems involving gun violence alone. To keep our residents safe, we’re going to need allies in state government, in the private sector and in our neighborhoods. The SNUG outreach program is critical because it combines public, non-profit and community partners to take a comprehensive approach to saving lives. The City of Utica has committed more than $30 million in new spending to address gun violence and public safety in a comprehensive manner. With the commitment Gov. Hochul and our community partners have shown, we’re seeing unprecedented resources and tools to make the City of Utica safer and better than ever.”
Mayor of Niagara Falls Robert Restaino said, “The safety and security of our neighborhoods is paramount to making Niagara Falls a safe place to live and raise a family. We are grateful to Governor Hochul for securing this funding to expand the SNUG program to Niagara Falls. Together with our local initiatives this funding will allow us to further our efforts to combat gun violence in our community.”
SNUG programs employ street outreach workers, hospital responders, social workers and case managers who work in the community and trauma centers. Outreach workers and hospital responders are credible messengers because they live in the communities in which they work and some have been involved with the criminal justice system or lost loved ones to violence. They work with teens and young adults to detect and defuse disputes before they escalate; respond to shootings to prevent retaliation through mediation and assist family members of those who have been injured or killed; and mentor youth involved with the program to set goals and connect them with educational and job opportunities as well as other services. The programs also engage the community, religious organizations and clergy, and local businesses through rallies, special events, and other community gatherings.
Social workers and case managers provide those affected by gun violence or other crimes in the communities with trauma-informed counseling, support groups, advocacy and assistance with filing victim compensation applications with the State Office of Victim Services, and referrals for other services as identified or needed; and offer support and guidance to SNUG team members, many of whom have had complex experiences with trauma. Social workers and case managers at the 12 existing SNUG sites are funded by federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants from the Office of Victim Services; the three new sites will be fully funded with state dollars from this year’s State Budget.
Comprehensive training, site visits and support from DCJS set SNUG apart from other community-based violence interruption programs across the state and country. New staff must complete 40 hours of training and new supervisors complete 32 hours of management training. All staff must also complete 40 hours of professional development training annually. This ongoing training and support help ensure that the program operates consistently across all SNUG sites despite being operated by different community-based organizations.
The Governor advanced and secured $24.9 million for SNUG and community-based gun violence initiatives in the State Budget, which triples the state’s previous investment. In addition to funding the SNUG programs, new funding will be used to pilot an initiative to increase participation in programming by helping meet the basic needs of vulnerable young people; provide skills-based job-readiness and work-placement training for youth who participate in SNUG; and build upon DCJS’s comprehensive training of SNUG staff by launching a first-in-the-nation program to recruit and retain outreach workers to overcome a primary obstacle to expanding community-based violence prevention efforts.
Earlier this week, Governor Hochul also announced $6.3 million in federal funding to expand anti-gun violence work and improve services for victims and survivors.
The Division of Criminal Justice Services provides critical support to all facets of the state’s criminal justice system, including, but not limited to: training law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals; overseeing a law enforcement accreditation program; ensuring Breathalyzer and speed enforcement equipment used by local law enforcement operate correctly; managing criminal justice grant funding; analyzing statewide crime and program data; providing research support; overseeing county probation departments and alternatives to incarceration programs; and coordinating youth justice policy.
The Office of Victim Services funds a network of more than 200 programs statewide that assist victims and survivors of crime and their family members.