Last week, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ, pictured in center), along with Jennifer Webb-McRae, Cumberland County Prosecutor (right), community partners, and representatives from Inspira Health (CEO Amy Mansue, at left), announced $1 million in Fiscal Year 2023 federal funding for the launch of a no-cost summer camp as well as year-round support services for youth in violence-impacted and disadvantaged areas of the county.
The program, coordinated by Inspira Health, will also address physical and mental health, academic success, and economic mobility by an array of licensed providers.
“This grant, and the people who will coordinate the funding, are setting into motion concrete action. They aren’t just talking about making a difference for local kids, they’re taking action,” said Sen. Menendez. “Because far too often, the work that goes on in Washington can feel disconnected from the residents and citizens it affects. But today, as we come together to announce federal dollars going towards Cumberland County, I know that committed public servants like Amy [Mansue, CEO, Inspira Health], Jennifer [Webb-McRae, County Prosecutor], and John [Fuqua, executive director, Life Worth Living] will use this funding to benefit the kids who call this area home. And as result, I know that Cumberland County’s best days are still to come.”
The federal grant will provide funding to purchase equipment and hire staff for the camp, which will also include 30,000 hours of supportive services to area youth between the ages of 10 and 24, year-round case management services to address physical and mental health and mentoring for academic success and economic mobility. The program will also expand access to area Police Athletic Leagues and local recreational activities through increased funding, training of youth/young adult volunteers, and addressing barriers to youth engagement.
“Addressing the gun violence epidemic and interrupting cycles of violence, especially among our youth, require a comprehensive, community-oriented approach like the one Cumberland County has undertaken,” said Sen. Cory Booker. “I met last summer with Cumberland County officials and the dedicated organizations working to keep their communities safe, and our discussion renewed my conviction that we must invest in their life-saving work. I will always fight to bring home resources for research-backed initiatives like this that keep our youth from becoming involved in the criminal justice system and help our communities thrive.”
“We applaud the bi-partisan efforts of Senator Menendez and his colleagues in the U.S. House and Senate to address the violence affecting Cumberland County families and children,” said Amy B. Mansue, president and CEO of Inspira Health. “Each year at Inspira Medical Center Vineland, we receive more than 400 visits that are related to gun violence of some kind. We urgently need to correct this problem, and this initiative and these funds are critically important to helping curb the cycle of violence in this community.”
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, in 2020, the most recent year for which full data is available, the violent crime rate for NJ was 195.4 crimes per 100,000 people while the national average was 398.5 crimes per 100,000 people. Cumberland County was more than double New Jersey’s and significantly higher than the U.S. as a whole at a rate of 421.2 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. In Bridgeton, along with the county’s two other major municipalities (Millville, and Vineland), Controlled Dangerous Substance with a Weapon arrests increased by 14.3 percent from 2018 to 2021 but increased by 300 percent for youth and young adults aged 10 to 25 years old.
“The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is committed to violence prevention and intervention efforts aimed at improving outcomes for at-risk youth. said Webb-McRae. “This program will increase the collective impact of our community-based organizations by increasing access to resources and activities which support youth living in communities most impacted by violence. This truly is a foundational investment in public safety that will pay dividends in Cumberland County for years to come.”
“At Life Worth Living, our mottos are #WeBetterTogether and #DoTheWork,” said John Fuqua, co-founder and executive director of Life Worth Living, a non-profit organization that focuses on youth development. “This bipartisan funding will allow this coalition to work together to actually do the work!”
The funding is part of the $181 million for community projects that Sen. Menendez secured in the government spending bill that passed the Senate in December 2022. The projects the Senator fought for in the funding bill will make critical investments in education, health care services, infrastructure, and public safety and will help improve communities across the state.