As healthcare providers join the police, schools and social-service workers in battling the epidemic of violence in America, demand for violence-prevention funding is increasing.
According to a survey by the Washington-based Chronicle of Philanthropy, foundations are responding.
A Sept. 7, 1993, Chronicle article reported that "foundations are beginning to award sizable amounts of money to control guns and gangs; to conduct public-opinion polls and public-education campaigns; to make schools safe and train student mediators; to support community policing and ease racial tensions; and to prevent violence against children, women, the elderly and homosexuals." And more grants are on the way, it said.
To illustrate the point, the Chronicle published a sample of 27 foundations. Collectively, they spent or allocated $71 million on violence programs. Twenty of the foundations began funding violence-prevention initiatives between 1990 and 1993.
An epidemic. Healthcare providersare treating violence as a public health issue and are becoming increasingly active in efforts to curb or deter violent behavior (See related cover story, p. 26). Some are seeking grants to fund violence-prevention programs.
Philanthropies are listening and have begun to mobilize.
Last summer, more than 160 representatives of foundations and charities attended the National Leadership Conference for Grantmakers on Violence Prevention in New York, a meeting designed in response to the growing incidence of violent behavior affecting children, youths and families.
A study presented at the conference found that 1,574 violence-prevention grants totaling $172 million had been awarded between 1988 and 1992. The results were published in the winter issue of Health Affairs, a healthcare policy journal published by Project Hope in Bethesda, Md. The 264-page issue was devoted to "violence and the public's health."
The study contained no comparative figures on anti-violence spending for previous years.
The nation's largest violence-prevention grantmaker is the California Wellness Foundation, a private, independent foundation created in February 1992 with a $300 million endowment from Health Net, the state's second-largest HMO. The endowment was required under the terms of an agreement to convert the not-for-profit HMO to a for-profit corporation.
Based in Woodland Hills, Calif., the California Wellness Foundation will spend $25.5 million over the next five years on reducing youth violence in the state. The foundation's violence-prevention initiative tackles the epidemic on four fronts: empowering community leaders, funding community health programs, seeking public policy changes and conducting research on violence-related issues.
In 1991, California's murder rate led the nation with 3,000 homicides. It's the second leading cause of death among California youths age 13 to 19 and the No. 1 cause of death among young adults age 20 to 24.
Among the grant recipients is the Trauma Foundation of San Francisco General Hospital. The $1.35 million grant was used to establish the Pacific Center for Violence Prevention, which is helping to coordinate the foundation's violence-prevention initiative. For example, one of the center's objectives is to educate policymakers about the need to adopt laws that will keep kids from obtaining handguns.
In another education effort, the Harvard Community Health Plan Foundation, a private funding arm of the Brookline, Mass.-based HMO, has provided some $80,000 to help physicians identify intentional injuries and provide counseling.
Gun control. While many foundations prefer to fund educational initiatives, more are providing direct funding to gun-control lobbies, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The New York-based Aaron Diamond Foundation began funding violence-prevention programs about five years ago. It spends about $100,000 annually, or 5% of its civil liberties program budget, to support such groups as Handgun Control, the lobbying organization chaired by Sarah Brady, wife of President Reagan's former press secretary, James Brady. Mr. Brady was critically wounded during the 1981 assassination attempt on the president.
But most of the foundation's funding for violence prevention is targeted at reducing violent behavior in schools. It spends $500,000 to $750,000 annually, or 9% of its education programs budget, on violence education, which includes conflict resolution and mediation.
It makes more sense and it's less expensive to teach kids how to deal with anger than to install $80,000 metal detectors at every school entrance, said Marsha Bonner, associate director of the foundation.
Aaron Diamond hasn't provided funding to any hospital-sponsored violence-prevention programs but would consider such efforts.
"(Given) the fact that there are more and more people looking at this as a priority, we would be open to funding more groups," she said.