Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital in Binghamton, New York is working with community partners to develop
a restorative, strength-based program that will divert high-risk youth from gang involvement as well as violent behavior.
At the kick-off summit for the Minority
Youth Violence Prevention initiative, Nancy Frank and Ralphalla Richardson discuss how they became interested
in partnering with police to help stop the cycle of harm in some of Binghamton’s struggling neighborhoods.
The following is a transcript
SCHWEIG: Hi, I’m Sarah Schweig of the Center for Court Innovation, and today, I am just outside Atlanta, Georgia,
for the first summit for the Minority Youth Violence Prevention Initiative out of the Office of Minority Health at
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who partnered with the Office of Community Oriented Policing at
the U.S. Department of Justice. Today, I’m here with Ralphalla Richardson and Nancy Frank from Lourdes Memorial
Hospital in Binghamton. Just to start off, Nancy, who is the director, will just talk a little bit about why you
guys got interested in Minority Youth Violence Prevention.
NANCY FRANK: As
a hospital system, we are part of a department called Youth Services Department, and we’ve been running programs,
youth development programs, since 1996. We have been running juvenile justice programs for youth, juvenile justice
prevention programs, and being a hospital system, we also are looking at mitigating some of the risk factors for
the social determinants of health. One area that we’ve really wanted to get into is the restorative justice
area of being able to look at youth violence with a different kind of lens. One of the programs we currently run
is a detention alternative after school program, but these kids are already in the juvenile justice system. We’ve
talked about wanting to get kids before they enter the system and use more of a preventative approach. We have, for
many years, been providing youth services in our county–in Broome County–and also in Binghamton. That was our interest
in getting this program together.
SCHWEIG: Wonderful. Maybe Ralphalla can
talk a little bit about some of the things you’ve been doing with the youth. I know we had a conversation before
about some trips you guys take and what you see that affecting with the kids you’re working with.
RALPHALLA RICHARDSON: Because we’ve been doing the detention alternative
after school program for so long, we’ve learned some really cool things. Like by taking the kids and exposing
them to just different situations, different environments, you get a very immediate and visceral reaction, so we
implemented a lot of that into our, we’re calling it BCAST in our area, Binghamton Community and Schools Together.
What we’re hoping to do is do some team-building trips. Like our local ski resort has a ropes course, so one
of our first big trips is all the kids in the program are going to go out, do some ropes course, do some team-building.
But we’re also going to do trips to science museums as incentives to keep them going but also then do other
trips to NICUs, kind of show them the adverse effects of getting involved in risky behaviors.
RICHARDSON: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
RICHARDSON: Also doing maybe interacting with some parolees recently
that are their own age. But also maybe going into what it’s actually like in jail because there’s this
very glamorized version of it but actually let them see what it really is. You get more of an immediate switch in
behavior, and then doing the follow-up work with our in-school groups, working with the SROs there, doing structured
recreation activities after school where the SROs can also be involved and build those positive relationships. We
FRANK: SRO being the School Resource Officer.
RICHARDSON: That’s our police component to build that healthy relationship
with the local law enforcement but also to address some of the parent behaviors. They have their own negative impression
of the police force so to work with them to improve that but also to address their own immediate needs to improve
the home environment, so that some of the changes the kids are working on have a better chance of sticking. So the
entire family can improve.
SCHWEIG: One thing that either of you could answer
it sounds like is that partnership with police. How did you guys really establish that? I feel like every city is
very different in terms of the relationship the police have with other agencies. Sometimes they tend to be more siloed,
sometimes they’re more out in the community, so maybe you can give a little bit of a sense of what that was
FRANK: Well, we started this process by reaching out to the mayor of
the city of Binghamton who, ultimately, oversees the police department for Binghamton. He was very interested in
doing this program, so he’s on board. They’ve started a Youth Success initiative through the city of Binghamton,
and the police also sit on that. It’s a Community Youth Services Board. They’re going to be acting as our
advisory board in a sense. That’s one area that we have to start focusing a little bit more on is the police
However, with partnering with the BOCES programs, there are kids
from Binghamton who are attending BOCES schools, so there are two different they’re called learning centers,
east and west. Each of those buildings have School Resource Officers who some are from the Binghamton Police, some
are also from our Broome County Sheriff’s Department. Our kids are pretty transient, so many times they move
from Binghamton to other parts of the county. To be able to have that good relationship not only with the city police
force but with the county sheriff’s department is not a bad thing as well. We’re still working on that
aspect of it, but it’s a new development. It’s not really something we’ve done before. We’ve
had a lot of interaction with the county attorney’s office, probation, but not so much law enforcement. That’s
the piece that we really are excited about adding to our existing program.
Yeah. That’s what this whole summit is about is ways of partnering…
SCHWEIG: … across health and policing.
One thing we’re real excited about is we’re having a community-wide restorative justice training. We’ve
been able to use the funds through this grant to bring in a gentleman by the name of Duke Fisher who is a nationally
renowned expert on restorative justice models. He’s had a lot of success working in schools, college campuses,
communities, and he’s going to be coming in and doing a free training for our community stakeholders. From that
training, we’re going to identify facilitators to actually be able to perform restorative justice activities.
It’s something that’s not being done in our community, and we’re really excited that this grant’s
going to allow us to bring that. That’s a sustainability piece because when this funding goes away, to have
people that are trained to continue a different way of looking at juvenile justice and youth offenders. We’re
excited about that.
SCHWEIG: That’s wonderful. Maybe a last question
to add is just from your experience and starting this process, do you have any takeaways, any lessons for any of
the other sites however anecdotal it might be just because you’re in a very unique situation where you’re
in a hospital, you have this program already in place? Any sort of suggestions?
I would say just don’t be afraid to think of unique ways of doing them. Just because you haven’t done it
before doesn’t mean you can’t, and it’s people that you maybe are hesitant to think of that would
want to partner with you are more than willing to because that was one of the things when we started letting in our
community, letting other agencies that we hadn’t even approached when we were writing it, writing the proposal.
You know, “We got this,” and telling them what we were doing. They were so supportive, and they’re
all like, “What can we do?” Once you actually tell people what you’re doing, you’d be surprised
how many people actually want to help you and want to be involved in the process.
One example of that is there’s the Healthy Lifestyles Coalition that was funded by a private not-for-profit
foundation, and they’re running out of money. But they have established great connections in a particular neighborhood
in Binghamton with the parents of the kids in that community, and they do a lot of cooking classes and things like
that. We’re sort of starting a discussion with them to say, “Well, how can we go in then with this established
group and do some of the things that we want to do? We can pay for the food…” Just those connections, and
we’re a small community. Everybody kind of knows everybody, so it’s been …
Using other organization’s knowledge or populations-
SCHWEIG: Seems really helpful.
connections, especially with what Nancy was saying with the parents. That’s a really hard group to break into,
but this particular agency, they’ve had some great success in engaging these parents–
RICHARDSON: Yeah. It’s a neighborhood that really could
benefit from this violence prevention because it’s a rougher neighborhood, and it’s a generational: generations
of poverty, generations of high school dropouts. That we can actually use their connections, and they’ll almost
vouch for us. They’ll be like, “These people are okay. You can”–
RICHARDSON: It’s giving us access to people we hadn’t
FRANK: Thought about. Right.
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for speaking with me today. Hopefully you enjoy the rest of the visit. I’m
Sarah Schweig, and I’ve been speaking with Nancy Frank and Ralphalla Richardson of Lourdes Memorial Hospital
in Binghamton, New York, about gaining trust within communities and partnering with people you might not have normally
thought of. To learn more about the Minority Youth Violence Prevention initiative, visit www.courtinnovation.org.
Thanks for listening.