ICYMI: Merced pilot program for youth violence intervention gets nearly $1 million boost


By Abbie Lauten-Scrivner. in Merced Sun Star

With the help of a grant awarded to only four other cities statewide, Merced is embarking on a new pilot program geared toward supporting at-risk youth and their families. 


Merced was awarded more than $977,000 by the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) for a Violence Intervention and Prevention (CalVIP) Program, the city announced in a news release. The grant will fund the three-year pilot program, facilitated by a partnership with Merced County Probation. 


 “We thank BSCC for supporting communities like Merced that are disproportionately impacted by violence,” Merced City Manager Stephanie Dietz said in the release. “This City Council is invested in supporting youth through programs that provide vital evidence-based resources.” The new initiative will follow the Pathways to Success program, a multi-agency approach to working with youth and their families experiencing violence through the CalVIP grant. The goal of the program is to build a positive community network as an alternative to violence. 


 “We must continue to focus on the needs of our youth and building a community free of violence,” Merced City Councilmember Jesse Ornelas said in the release. “This funding will expand much-needed supportive services that will aid in the healing and recovery of youth within our community.


The special component is that youth who have walked through the trauma of community violence will participate.” Throughout the course of the pilot program, at-risk and probation-involved youth, as well as their families, will receive necessary care and support. Pathways to Success is designed to offer a personalized and supportive landing for youth reentering the community through case management that focuses on wrap-around services. 


 “Partnering with Pathways to Success will create and ensure collaboration between partner agencies through developing individualized rehabilitation plans that productively support youth within our community,” Dietz said. The grant funds will also be leveraged to establish the Office of Neighborhood Safety, a division of the Merced city manager’s office. Four peer support specialists will also mentor a dedicated caseload of youth by offering direct links to resources, systems navigation, tutoring, job training and family strengthening resources. 


“The city’s peer support specialists will be a nice compliment to the Pathways to Success program,” said Kalisa Rochester, chief probation officer for Merced County Probation. “I am encouraged by the growing collaborative effort, and I am excited to get this three-year pilot program underway.”


All services will be provided at the Stephen Leonard Community Center in south Merced. Those services will include: Social and emotional learning skills – Activities designed to promote competency skills that create resilient relationships with family, friends and community. 


Prevention and intervention resources – Supportive services, located at physically and emotionally safe community-based family resource centers, to encourage productive family involvement and to support a successful rehabilitation program.


Financial allowances – Peer support specialists will consider existing financial barriers and, based on need, will set up a monetary allowance for housing, transportation, food, and clothing assistance. Evidence-based programming – Skill-building and family therapy programs designed to mentor and positively change a youth’s behavior. Through evaluations, programming will consist of family therapy, mentoring, and skill-building resources.