Taking a cue from a successful Minneapolis program, Lakes Area Restorative Justice Program is launching a task force aimed at problems facing Brainerd's young people.
Roger Lynn of Lakes Area Restorative Justice said the Youth Wellness Task Force will be a collaboration between law enforcement, the judiciary, educators, social services, churches, nonprofits, businesses, parents and youths looking at youth violence, crimes and overall wellness.
Lynn said the goal of the task force is sustainable resources for area young people.
"We have a lot of good programs but the problem is right now they're being threatened because they don't have the money," he said.
The Minneapolis program, Blueprint to Prevent Youth Violence, was started in January of 2008. The city noted violent crime involving juveniles decreased by 46 percent in 2008.
The task force will host its first meeting from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday at First Lutheran Church, 424 S. Eighth St. To register contact, Adam Marcotte at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Lynn at 831-9571.
The keynote speakers will be Bass Zanjani, youth violence prevention coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Health, and Jan Fondell, youth development specialist with the Minnesota Department of Health. Both will speak on the Minneapolis initiative.
Lynn said the goal of the first meeting will be drawing on the Minneapolis model and designing a process that fits the needs and resources of Crow Wing County.
"It will be research, looking at what the actual scope of the problems are and what's being provided by talking to youths and parents," Lynn said.
Lakes Area Restorative Justice Program has been awarded an Initiative Foundation grant to hire a VISTA volunteer to work on the youth wellness initiative through Aug. 7, 2010. Lynn said those interested in the position can contact him by June 1.
Brainerd Police Officer Troy Schreifels, the department's school resource officer, said though there hasn't been a rise in violence among juveniles it is good to be proactive with the task force.
"Anything that could help with keeping youth out of trouble is a good thing," Schreifels said.
There are good resources currently in the area, Schreifels said, but they often don't work together. The task force will bring everything to one table, he said.
"That's the biggest thing, getting all these organizations together and putting a face with names and know how," he said. "If we didn't have those resources, would we have a problem? Theoretically, I'd say yes."
Lynn said the ultimate goal is connecting every youth in need of help with a responsible adult from social services, a mentor or through after-school programs.
Like with Lakes Area Restorative Justice Program, the idea is intervention rather than punishment, Lynn said.
"We want to change the climate of violence through education," he said.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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