Getting disputants involved in an altercation to avoid a shootout? How quaint, almost unAmerican.
But it’s not a bad idea. Enemies killing each other in an escalating retaliatory parade may not be the best way to solve disputes.
At a press conference Monday morning, lieutenant governor Antonio Delgado, state senator Michelle Hinchey and Kingston mayor Steve Noble advocated for an innovative anti-gun program designed to stem gun violence in Ulster County. The community outreach program is run by the non-profit Samadhi.
Crime was down a lot in Kingston this year, Noble said after the press conference. He attributed part of the drop in crime to a more visible, more active police presence in the community.
But another part was due to civilian outreach workers going out into the streets offering alternatives to gun violence. “We don’t want to lose any more lives,” said Noble.
All levels of government – federal, state, county and local – are cooperating. They were all represented at the Monday press conference.
No one approach would solve the problem of gun violence, Delgado said. Some programs emphasize criminal justice, but there was room also for programs based on the more positive virtues of love and acceptance. People, especially those with drug-abuse problems, needed emotional support: opportunities for housing, mental-health services and training for employment.
Yogic meditation provides one path to improving an individual’s sense of self-esteem. That’s where Samadhi, the highest state of consciousness also known as enlightenment and achievable only through intense meditation, comes in. And what the Samadhi recovery community outreach center on Sawkill Road teaches, too.
When he was still the local congressmember, Delgado and state senator Hinchey had collaborated on finding funding for protection against gun violence. Delgado secured federal funding of $430,000 last year and an additional $70,000 this year, and Hinchey $50,000 of state funds last year and $50,000 this year.
The program employs trained outreach workers, also known as “credible messengers,” who have strong ties to their community and relationships with young adults, local leaders, and service providers. Their job, according to a press release, is “to prevent retaliatory gun violence before it happens, respond to incidents, and re-direct the young people away from life on the streets by linking youth with needed services.”
Samadhi founder David McNamara explained that “the Samadhi program treats gun violence like a disease by identifying its causes and interrupting its transmission.”
Head “credible messenger” and director of the program Debra Long said the increased gun violence — particularly among young people of color — needed to be addressed. The program was a jumpstart, she said. “Efforts to reduce gun violence need to address the underlying societal conditions that are causing violence — such as concentrated poverty, gaps in available public-health resources, and community trauma, many of which have only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Pat Ryan revealed $430,000 in Federal funding is going to Samadhi through a federal grant.