The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Bureau of Community Health and Prevention announced that Amherst’s application for funding under the Equitable Approaches to Public Safety (EAPS) grant program had been selected to receive $449,949 in funding. The town was one of five communities in Massachusetts to be awarded a significant grant to develop equitable approaches to public safety.
The funds will go to support the planning and implementation of the Community Response for Equity, Safety & Service (CRESS) program. The goal for this grant is to provide support in implementing the CRESS program and to provide the related services that will be needed to support residents in recovery. The grant will provide resources for the development of a comprehensive implementation plan.
Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said, “The Amherst Town Council’s goal is to explore alternative options of providing services to respond to issues of homelessness, mental health, and other non-criminal calls to emergency dispatch. Based on the intense work of the Community Safety Working Group (CSWG), Town staff competed successfully to win this grant which will provide the resources needed to develop our new community responder program.”
CSWG Co-chair Brianna Owen said “”We are thrilled to have more funding to build the CRESS Program as the town did not allocate us enough funds, to begin with. Many thanks to key players Marybeth Olgowitz, CSWG members, and the community for helping us get here. We are so grateful that the community has trusted us with their lived experiences that have helped us build the CRESS program. We look forward to the ability to put together a more robust program that is closer to the full vision of the CSWG and better meets the needs of our entire community”
State Senator Jo Comerford shared, “Heartfelt congratulations to the Town of Amherst for being one of five communities in the Commonwealth to be awarded a competitive Equitable Approaches to Public Safety grant. This award is a testament to the painstaking work of the BIPOC Community Safety Working Group. I very much look forward to the launch of the Community Response for Equity, Safety & Service initiative and to working with Representative Mindy Domb to continue to support this critical work.”
State Representative Mindy Domb added, “I am so proud that Amherst is one of five municipalities in Massachusetts to receive this award. This state grant will allow the incredible and valuable work of the Amherst BIPOC Community Safety Working Group to become a reality by underwriting the development and launching of the proposed CRESS program. The significance of Amherst receiving these funds reflects the CSWG’s extraordinary work and the value and impact of their recommendations.”
Bockelman added, “Senator Comerford and Representative Domb were key players in including this funding in the State budget and were strong advocates for our application. These funds would not have been available without their influential work in this area.”
The grant includes funding for a project manager and support, mental health providers, training, evaluation, and other related costs of the Community Responder program. The Town will be contributing matching funds to support the community responder positions, a program director, and administrative support.
In soliciting proposals, DPH stated it was seeking municipalities to implement public safety reforms and/or alternative investments to promote equitable public safety and public health outcomes. Public safety reform focuses on redefining how a community ensures public safety and responds to public safety crises, such as having community first responders for mental health crises. Alternative investments increase funding for strategies that address the root causes of crime and public safety crises, such as funding mental health or substance use treatment or supporting permanent housing.