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Youth Crossroads Awarded Gun Violence Prevention Grant Targeting Youth Most At-Risk

Youth Crossroads was awarded a $475,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services to provide trauma-informed care to Cicero and Berwyn youth who have been involved in the criminal justice system.

The grant will provide mental health services for youth (ages 10-24) who have been impacted by bullying, severe family conflict or neglect, and other victimization scenarios and have no positive support structures in place. “We see a clear connection between gun violence and mental health issues,” said Michelle Desideri, Director of YC’s Counseling Services. “Many of the youth we see our involved with gangs because it feeds into their anger responses and mental health concerns. In addition, these individuals are often involved in the criminal justice system, have been impacted by family violence, shootings, or traumatic loss and can also be surrounded by family members who teach or promote negative or anti-social responses,” Desideri said.

The grant will fund:

1 · TI Behavioral Health Services Team – A Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor or Licensed Clinical Social Worker will lead a team consisting of a Program Manager and 2 case managers / out-reach workers who will have at minimum a BA/BS/BSW in a social services field. Staff will receive training appropriate to their role and degree such as Functional Family Therapy, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, Psychological First Aid, and Peace Circles.

2 · Referrals
a. YC will work directly with the local police departments, ordinance courts, Juvenile Probation Services, local schools, and other community resources to identify these youth (ages 10 to 24) who are at highest risk for gun violence and their families.
b. Currently, YC uses an electronic referral process and would propose to establish a similar process for direct referrals to the proposed case management services. Referral sources would be able to immediately refer a family or individual into services. YC case managers would respond to the family within 24 hours to schedule an initial interview and screening at a location that is most convenient to the family. When possible, case managers will respond to local referral resources and complete immediate screenings with families and youth. Our goal
will always be to wrap the family with resources and services but will focus

3 · Trauma Informed Screenings – Crisis Team will conduct trauma informed screenings and assessment to determine an individual’s exposure to potentially traumatic events, experiences, or traumatic loss, and whether they are exhibiting traumatic stress symptoms/reactions. YC will use the Pediatric ACE’s and Related Life Events Screener for Children and Teens and the Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire for Adults.
These will be the basis for our clinical assessment of the impact and effect of trauma to the individual and the family enlarge. In addition, staff will integrate our current Crisis Safety Screener as used for our CCBYS services and provide a full psycho-social family or individual assessment.

a. Hyper-arousal or exaggerated startle response
b. Irritable or aggressive behavior
c. Behavioral problems
d. Interpersonal problems
e. Avoidance of trauma-related thoughts or feelings
f. Intrusive memories of the event or nightmares about the event

4 · Trauma Assessment – After the initial screenings are completed, the licensed clinician will meet with the family to complete a YC assessment and review the results of each individuals SDQ and ACE’s screener. They will provide the family with information on the importance of mental wellness, the effects of trauma, discrimination and inequity and make recommendations for mental health services. The clinician and/or the case manager will directly connect the family with services either through YC or other community-based services. We will work with local mental health agencies to see if youth and families at highest risk can be seen without being placed on a waiting list.

5 · Trauma Specific Therapeutic Services (Crisis Intervention, Think First, Functional Family Therapy, Trauma Informed Psychoeducation, Psychological First Aid, Peace Circles) would be offered to individuals and families depending on the situation. YC crisis team will provide case management and post crisis services as needed to help educate individuals about their symptoms, stress triggers, and trauma-related behaviors. The goal is to give individuals the tools they need to understand, manage, and cope with their experiences and resist re-traumatization.

a. Crisis Intervention may be needed to stabilize an individual so that more intense services (DCFS, hospitalization) are not necessary. Stabilization services may involve more intense counseling services with YC staff for 30 days post traumatic event.

b. Trauma Informed Psychoeducation may focus on shame resistance to offer courage, compassion, and connection to individuals experiencing shame and building self-esteem to give them a greater sense of control of their future.

c. Think First Curriculum will be used to target individuals who display aggressive behavior regardless of consequences. The goal is to help them develop alternative strategies to resolve conflicts peacefully.

d. Functional Family Therapy may be recommended for individuals involved with gangs or the criminal justice system. It is a prevention and intervention program designed to address at-risk behaviors (i.e., curfew violations, running away, truancy, juvenile delinquency) from a relational, family-based perspective built on a foundation of acceptance and respect. FFT consists of five major components: engagement, motivation, relational assessment, behavior change and generalization. Each of these components has its own goals, focus and intervention strategies and techniques.

e. Psychological First Aid may be offered to individuals, families, and schools following a traumatic event. PFA is designed to reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping. f. Peace Circles may be used to bring individuals together individuals to foster honest communications for conflict resolution, healing, support, relationship development, and community building.

g. Handle With Care is a program we offer in Berwyn and Cicero to notify schools when students have been involved in a traumatic event at home and that they may require additional support and understanding.

6 · Youth Living Room Program – Youth Crossroads will offer a safe, inviting, home-like atmosphere where individuals can calmly process a crisis event and learn and apply wellness strategies which may prevent future crisis events. These services will be offered at our buildings in Berwyn or Cicero, Corazon Community Services in Cicero, Berwyn and Cicero schools, and the Cicero Health Department. We will offer safe spaces for individuals to open up, feel trust, and to be their authentic selves.

7 · Service Linkage and Linkage: Pipeline to Youth Crossroads’ Workforce Development Program (WDP) and Youth Leadership Programs (YLP) – Individuals (ages 14-24) who participate in trauma informed therapeutic services will be given an opportunity to participate in YC’s workforce development and Youth Leadership Programs. Our Workforce Development Program (WDP) provides opportunities for individuals to get introductory training as community health workers, entrepreneurship, food systems and sustainability, and music education. WDP also offers employment readiness activities to help individuals hit the ground running. YLP uses community service to build the capacity of youth for self-reliance, self-confidence, social responsibility, and teamwork. YLP also offers college readiness activities and mentorship training.