PITTSBURGH, PA (October 30, 2020) Mayor William Peduto today announced policing and social services changes in the City of Pittsburgh to help ensure that all residents have the right resources and responders when facing crises.
Working in collaboration with the STOP the Violence Initiative headed by Councilmen Rev. Ricky Burgess and Daniel Lavelle, the City is adopting the Health, Safety and Violence Prevention Initiative, which will house the Office of Community Health and Safety and the Office of Community Services and Violence Prevention.
“These offices are at the center of how we are working to reimagine policing – where we’re able to create stronger public health and restorative responses to incidents that may have been seen as a sole public safety concern,” Mayor Peduto said.
The initiative follows the creation of the Office of Community Health and Safety in June, to house social services, public health and social work experts to assist first responders in situations that require longer-term assistance, harm reduction support and other services; and the partnership with Allegheny Health Network’s Center for Inclusion Health announced in July to build a new model for responding to the needs of those experiencing homelessness, problematic substance abuse and unaddressed mental health issues.
“We are extremely pleased to be working with the City of Pittsburgh on this important public health initiative which marks a significant milestone in achieving health equity for vulnerable and marginalized populations in our region,” said Dan Palka, Administrative Director, Program for Homeless and Urban Poverty Medicine, AHN Center for Inclusion Health.
It also follows the recommendations of the Mayor’s Community Taskforce for Police Reform released earlier this month.
The Health, Safety and Violence Prevention Initiative will be headed by the City’s new Office of Community Health and Safety Manager Laura Drogowski and will work in partnership with the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Community Services and Violence Prevention, headed by Assistant Public Safety Director Shatara Murphy.
“While the Office of Community Health and Safety focuses on the alternative response we can have to public safety, the Office of Community Services and Violence Prevention will be focused on how we can be more restorative in our police practices,” Councilman Rev. Burgess said. “This office will coordinate innovative, evidence-based Public Safety programs and facilitate ongoing partnerships with faith and community-based organizations.”
The efforts will be supported by the STOP the Violence funding granted by City Council earlier this year, and employ staffers including Community Engagement Specialist, a Victims Assistance Coordinator, an Overdose Prevention Project Coordinator and others. The initiative will also have the ability to issue micro grants to community groups that are working on violence disruption work.
“STOP the Violence will have the ability to give mini grants to community groups that are working on violence disruption work. We’ve seen the tremendous success of allowing communities to be supporting in coming up with their own solutions to violence reduction, and this initiative will leverage their work further,” Councilman Lavelle said.