Gun violence is by far the largest driver of homicides in America, the overwhelming majority of which take the form of day-to-day shootings in underserved communities.1 Black and Latino young men living in low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by this violence.2
In order to adequately address this public health crisis, we need policies that target not only the supply of guns in impacted communities but also the root causes of community violence. In addition to stronger gun laws, there are a number of highly effective intervention strategies that directly address gun homicides and shootings by working with individuals at highest risk to disrupt cycles of violence. For more details on these strategies, see our Healing Communities in Crisis report.
Interpersonal Gun Violence in Illinois
Illinois has struggled with gun violence for decades, and elevated levels of violence in recent years have earned the state one of the highest gun homicide rates in the country. Gun violence is highly concentrated in the city of Chicago, where nearly two-thirds of all homicides in Illinois occur.3 Shootings in Illinois also have a disparate impact on communities of color. Black men make up 7% of Illinois’s overall population, but 72% of the state’s gun homicide victims.4
Cycles of community violence in Illinois take an enormous emotional and physical toll on the state’s residents, and gun violence also places a tremendous financial burden on the state. Including direct and indirect costs, gun violence in Illinois costs taxpayers approximately $7.2 billion annually.5
Illinois’s Investment in Strategies to Address Community Violence
Historically, Illinois’s primary state-level investment in addressing community violence came in the form of a yearly modest grant to support the Cure Violence model of violence reduction. This strategy is a public health approach to violence that relies on credible messengers to conduct street outreach to high-risk individuals. Despite its promising results in target neighborhoods, state funding for Cure Violence was often extremely inconsistent, and the program suffered abrupt funding cuts in 2007, 2011, and again in 2015.6
In recent years, Illinois has significantly increased its state investment in community violence intervention initiatives. In the most recent state budget, signed into law in June 2021, state leaders appropriated:7
- $50 million to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) for “grants and administrative expenses associated with implementing violence prevention programs[.]”
- About $37 million in additional funding for grants for community-based violence intervention programs, including $7.54 million for grants through the ICJIA Community-Based Violence Prevention grant program8, $6.1 million for grants through ICJIA for “street intervention programming” by Metropolitan Family Services 9, and over $20 million for grants through ICJIA to other specific violence prevention organizations.10
- The state budget enacted in 2021 also included an additional $50 million for grants by the state Department of Human Services to be used to support mental health, behavioral health, and substance use programs. Some of this funding is likely to be used to support grant-making by the new statewide Office of Firearm Violence Prevention established within the Department of Human Services. (See below for more information about this new Office).
In 2021, Illinois also passed critical legislation to establish a new statewide Office of Firearm Violence Prevention within the IL Department of Human Services, with specified responsibilities including grant-making to violence prevention organizations, technical assistance providers, and qualified evaluation and assessment organizations in communities identified as having the highest per capita rates of gun violence.11
This new law enacted in 2021 also directed the state Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services, by January 15, 2022, to establish a new Medicaid trauma recovery services program to provide reimbursement for specified counseling and therapy, case management, community support, and other violence intervention services through Medicaid for both adults and youth recovering from trauma as a result of chronic exposure to firearm violence.12
Taken together, the investments made in Illinois’s 2020 and 2021 budgets represent a significant increase in state-level funding for violence reduction strategies focused on providing services to individuals at highest risk of victimization or involvement in violence. The state’s total investment in this area has grown steadily and substantially in recent years, making Illinois one of the nation’s new leaders in terms of state-level investments in violence reduction strategies.
Although it will take several years to determine the impact of this investment, given the enormous cost of gun violence, a sustained allocation of resources to such strategies is likely to save hundreds of lives, as well as billions in taxpayer dollars.
Background on existing Illinois Violence Intervention programs:
Community-Based Violence Intervention and Prevention (CBVIP) Program
The 2021 enacted budget continues the roughly $7.5 million per year investment Illinois has made in the ICJIA Community-based Violence Prevention Programs (CBVIP) grant, which provides grant funding to entities that provide services such as case management, violence mediation, mentoring, mental health counseling, and community and partnership building to ensure the most effective provision of these services to at-risk youth and young adults.13 Since 2018, Illinois has awarded $7.5 million dollars annually to community- and faith-based organizations and various state and municipal agencies through the CBVIP grant program.14 CBVIP aims to deter a wide range of crimes including “murder, gun violence, interpersonal and domestic violence, sexual violence, robbery, and aggravated or simple assault and battery.”15
To receive funding, grantees must work to “convene or expand an existing community coalition” that engages service providers, governmental agencies, law enforcement, and faith- and community-based groups to build awareness for support services that address the causes and consequences of violence through education, public presentations, and “awareness events”.16
Grantees must also provide at least one of the following direct services:
- Street Intervention, outreach, and engagement or programs that provide crisis intervention and de-escalation services to youth and young adults at high risk for engaging in violence
- Counseling and therapy services provided by a “culturally appropriate” mental health professional
- Case management that effectively develops trust between agencies and the people they serve with the goal of promoting client retention
- Youthdevelopment that builds the emotional, physical, social, and intellectual capacity of youth, promotes “prosocial life skills”, and helps young people practice conflict resolution17
Violence Prevention and Street Intervention Programs (VP-SIP)
For fiscal year 2020, the state of Illinois made available a total of $12 million for state violence prevention and street intervention grants and administration.18 Grant recipients were required to join, convene, or expand community coalitions that engage service providers, governmental agencies, law enforcement, faith-based groups, and community members. These coalitions seek to raise awareness for available violence prevention resources, help develop partnerships that can meet the immediate needs of clients, and provide “pro-social” activities in the community.19
Grant recipients were also required to implement a “street intervention/interruption-active Outreach and Engagement program” targeting youth and young adults at high risk for engaging in violent behavior.20 To be eligible for funding, program staff and volunteers that engage with clients are required to complete trauma-informed training, meaning they have been taught how best to communicate with and provide support to individuals who have suffered traumatic experiences. In fact, all applicants are strongly encouraged to increase their knowledge of trauma-informed practices, and, “where appropriate, incorporate trauma-informed practices into proposed services.”21
Safer Foundation Fund
The state budget for fiscal year 2020 also appropriated $1 million to support the service agency Safer Foundation (SF) and its partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital’s Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI).22 This partnership “seeks to better understand the issues connected to gun violence in Chicago’s west side communities.”23 In addition to providing referrals to SF, SUHI hopes to build on their study of victims of nonfatal gun violence who are quickly treated and discharged with a goal of identifying needs, gaps, resources, and barriers to employment and workforce development. SUHI will also compare the needs of those with arrest or conviction records to those without them.24
Additionally, ICJIA funds will allow the Safer Foundation to provide more support to individuals participating in a higher level of credentialed training and job training, “including higher literacy, skill level, case management, and wrap around services.”25
Investing in Intervention
Illinois’s most recent investment makes it one of the largest funders of gun violence intervention and prevention programming in the country, on both an absolute and per capita basis.
Illinois’s support for evidence-based strategies provides critical resources for cities and community-based organizations engaged in lifesaving work. This renewed commitment to violence prevention and intervention is a promising step in the right direction, but only time will tell if the state’s new grant programs are able to achieve success.
Other states that have chosen to fund violence intervention and prevention strategies over the long term, including Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, have witnessed substantial reductions in gun violence—saving both lives and taxpayer dollars. To learn more about how states are supporting effective evidence-based gun violence reduction strategies, see our report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence.
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- According to CDC data, out of 19,510 total homicides in the US in 2017, 14,542 were committed with a firearm, which is nearly 75%. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports, accessed October 9, 2019, http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html.
- “Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data: Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, 2018, Table 8,” US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed October 9, 2019, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/table-8/table-8-state-cuts/illinois.xls
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Compressed Mortality File, 2013-2017,” accessed April 22, 2019, https://wonder.cdc.gov/.
- Calculated by Giffords Law Center. Estimates of the cost of gun violence in Illinois were created using a model published in 2012 by economists at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). PIRE is a nonprofit research organization that focuses on using scientific research to inform public policy. This model can be found at www.pire.org/documents/gswcost2010.pdf. All cost estimates were adjusted to 2016 dollars.
- Charles Ransford, et al., The Relationship Between Cure Violence (CeaseFire) and the Increase in Shootings and Killings in Chicago, September 2016, http://cureviolence.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2016.09.22-CV-Chicago-Memo.pdf.
- See 2021 SB 2800.
- Article 86, Sec. 35.
- Id. Sec. 40.
- Article 86, Sec. 45-155.
- 2021 IL SB 2017, Sec. 35-20; 2021 IL HB 2971 (amending SB 2017 to to expand the number of localities eligible to apply for grant funding, and to allow CBOs to apply directly for funding/training assistance).
- 2021 IL SB 2017, Section 35-50, 35-55.
- Grant Programs, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, accessed August 19, 2019, http://www.icjia.state.il.us/grant-programs.
- 2019 IL SB 264, Art. 93, Sec. 35; “Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Budget Committee Meeting Minutes,” Feb. 28, 2018, accessed Jan. 3, 2019, http://www.icjia.state.il.us/assets/pdf/budget/Budget_Committee_Materials_062118_v2.pdf; State of Illinois Office of Management and Budget, Enacted Appropriations by Line Item FY 18 and FY 19, https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/budget/Documents/Budget%20Book/FY%202019/Enacted-Appropriations-by-Line-Item-FY18-and-FY19.xls.
- Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Budget Committee Meeting Minutes, Feb. 28, 2018, accessed Jan. 3, 2019, http://www.icjia.state.il.us/assets/pdf/budget/Budget_Committee_Materials_062118_v2.pdf.
- 2019 IL SB 262.
- Uniform Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): Violence Prevention and Street Intervention Programs (VP-SIP), Version 3.6.19, accessed August 26, 2019, https://grants.icjia.cloud/funding/2019-street-intervention/FY20StreetInterventionNOFO.docx.
- 2019 IL SB 262.
- Safer Foundation Fund, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, August 26,2019, http://www.icjia.state.il.us/grant-programs/safer-foundation-fund.