Lt. Governor Karyn Polito announced nearly $1 million in grant funding to five organization partnerships across the Commonwealth working to promote healthy relationships among youth.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. /Massachusetts Newswire/ — As part of Massachusetts’ continuing efforts to prevent sexual assault and teen dating violence, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito today announced nearly $1 million in grant funding to five organization partnerships across the Commonwealth working to promote healthy relationships among youth. The announcement was made at an event at the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Pittsfield, one of the grant recipients.
Funded organizations and their partners will work with youth ages 12-18 to promote healthy relationships of all kinds and to prevent sexual violence in their lives and communities. They will also work to adopt policies and practices within youth-serving organizations or school-based settings to reduce sexual assault and dating violence among youth, and will collaborate to build the capacity of partner agencies to support these efforts.
“The awards will continue the work started last year with the launch of RESPECTfully, the state’s first prevention and awareness campaign in more than 20 years to promote positive, supportive relationships among youth in the Commonwealth,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “The organizations receiving grants today will work directly with youth from communities that data show experience a disproportionate impact from sexual assault and teen dating violence.”
Grant recipients were selected in a competitive application process. They include:
- Elizabeth Freeman Center, Inc., Pittsfield, awarded $189,928 to partner with Taconic High School and 18 Degrees’ Live Out Loud Youth Project to serve Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ youth in Pittsfield
- Boston Public Health Commission, awarded $189,594 to partner with New Mission High School, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Elizabeth Stone House, Emerge, Boston GLASS, and the state Department of Youth Services to serve middle and high school Black and Latinx youth and LGBTQ youth of color in Boston
- Family and Community Resources, Inc., Brockton, awarded $190,000 to partner with Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro South, Cape Verdean Women United, Alternative High School, Brockton High School’s Project Grads program for teen parents, and Brockton middle schools to serve African-American, Cape Verdean, and Haitian youth in Brockton
- Triangle, Inc.’s IMPACT: Ability Program, Boston, awarded $160,478 to partner with Henderson Inclusion School, Community Academy of Science and Health, Boston Medical Center’s Domestic Violence Program, and the state Disabled Persons Protection Commission’s Sexual Assault Response Unit to serve Boston youth with significant intellectual disabilities, most of whom are Black or Latinx and low-income, and an estimated 20-30 percent of whom are LGBTQ, homeless, and/or immigrants
- Safe Passage, Inc., Northampton, awarded $190,000 to partner with Easthampton High School and Community Action Pioneer Valley’s GenerationQ Youth Program to serve LGBTQ+ students in Easthampton
“The Healthy Relationships Grant Program was designed with a great deal of input from youth and youth serving organizations to develop an impactful program,” said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders “Congratulations to our grant recipients on this award – one that we hope will make a meaningful difference in young people’s lives.”
The goal of the grant program is to work with youth to develop innovative, evidence-informed prevention programs tailored to one or more specific youth groups. In addition to reducing racial inequities and health disparities, the work of the partnerships for and with youth will further develop the base of evidence of the effectiveness of the sexual assault and dating violence prevention strategies via a robust evaluation of the funded programs.
“Young people will be the ones helping to design these programs with their peers,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “Their voices and experiences will be integral to our ability to create successful strategies. We look forward to seeing the ideas they bring to this process.”
“It is essential that we equip our young people with the tools to understand the concepts of healthy relationships and also raise their awareness to recognize the signs of relationships that don’t meet these standards. In the City of Pittsfield, we are grateful to have dedicated community partners like the Elizabeth Freeman Center who are committed to this outreach effort. Thanks to this significant grant award, the Freeman Center will be able to further its work among some of our city’s most vulnerable youth, critical steps that will help to ensure their health and well-being,” said Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer.
“Elizabeth Freeman Center is very excited to partner with Taconic High School and Live Out Loud Youth Project to develop and deliver innovative and inclusive healthy relationship programs for our youth,” said Janis Broderick, Executive Director of the Elizabeth Freeman Center, Inc. “We hope this is a beginning, and that these opportunities will be extended to every school in Massachusetts so that we truly promote a new culture in which our kids will feel safe in their homes and on our streets, and be healthy, happy and successful in life.”
“The Boston Public Health Commission’s Start Strong Program is thrilled to receive the Department of Public Health’s Healthy Relationship’s Grant. In partnership with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and GLASS, we aim to continue our youth lead, youth created, and youth inspired endeavors to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships,” said Rita Nieves of the Boston Public Health Commission.
“Family and Community Resources is thrilled to be included in this important and timely initiative,” said Joanne Hoops of Family and Community Resources, Inc. “We look forward to working with our partners, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro South and Cape Verdean Women United, and the young people of our community, to help provide adolescents and others in our community the tools and resources that will promote healthy and positive relationships.”
“Young people with disabilities experience higher rates of sexual assault and dating violence, yet too often healthy relationships programs don’t reach special education classrooms,” said Meg Stone, Executive Director of IMPACT at Triangle, Inc. “ We are honored to bring evidence-based programs to students with disabilities in Boston Public Schools.”
“For the first time, Safe Passage will have the dedicated staffing required to offer comprehensive prevention programming to our community. We will integrate our Say Something curriculum into local schools to foster healthy relationships among youth at a critical time in their lives,” said Safe Passage Executive Director Marianne Winters. “Prevention works and we are excited to partner with the Department of Public Health and the Governor in this important aspect of our mission.”
“Programs such as these are a great first step in addressing the problem we hear about all too often. By investing in programs to prevent dating violence, we are giving our children the tools and knowledge to have happy, healthy relationships” Said Senator Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield).
“Let’s face it: navigating relationships is a skill we need for our entire lives, more than anything on an MCAS test,” said Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield). “In my work to address the crisis of sexual assault on college campuses, it became abundantly clear that at its core we have a problem with folks learning, at a young age, how to treat each other. Critically, we all need to learn that we should expect to be treated well by others, and that we should expect from ourselves that we will stand up for people who are being treated badly.”
“In North Adams and throughout the Berkshires we are fortunate to have a network of partners working together to respond to domestic violence and sexual assault as the public health emergency they are. As mayor and as a member of the Berkshire Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force I know the Elizabeth Freeman Center and its programs focused on critical incident response, counseling and planning services, advocacy, and outreach truly make a difference for survivors and victims of all ages,” said North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard. “With the resources provided through the Healthy Relationships grant, and the focus on awareness and prevention through the RESPECTfully campaign, the Baker-Polito Administration is building our local capacity to serve and empower young people as they develop supportive, positive, healthy, and safe relationships.”
Sexual assault and dating violence, like other forms of violence, contribute to health inequities. Sexual assault and dating violence have both short- and long-term health effects for survivors, contributing to chronic disease, substance abuse, gynecological and mental health issues. Child abuse, sexual violence, and partner violence often lead to homelessness among survivors, which in turn puts people at risk for additional sexual assault and sexual exploitation/trafficking. Youth who have experienced trauma, including witnessing or experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, are at greater risk for suicide.
This grant program is a crucial opportunity to improve the current quality of life of individual youth, and also to foster their long-term well-being and the health of their families and communities.
To learn more, visit the RESPECTfully campaign at https://www.mass.gov/respectfully.
/EDITORIAL NOTE: file photo used; image not from event mentioned in news item.