Federal grant to help heal wounds of Emanuel Nine shootings

June 09, 2016
Mother Emanuel Church
Almost a year after the deaths of nine people at Emanuel AME Church, a newly-announced grant from the Justice Department will fund treatment for people impacted by the shootings.

Light streamed through the stained glass windows in the sanctuary of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church as Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Drake said the names of the nine people who lost their lives in the June 17, 2015, mass shooting that happened during a Bible study at the historic black church. 

With the one-year anniversary of the deadly shooting approaching, officials gathered June 9 to announce a $3.6 million grant from the National Office of Victims of Crime that will promote the coordinated efforts of partnering governmental agencies to assist the congregation of Mother Emanuel AME Church.

“We work best when we work together,” said Drake as she described the work of first responders from every level of government who converged to help in the aftermath of the tragedy.

“Everyone wanted to solve this crime and to help this community heal. This $3.6 million grant for the Medical University of South Carolina from the Department of Justice will allow us to continue the work that began that night, in partnership to provide the much needed assistance to the victims, the community and the survivors through the upcoming legal proceedings and the stages of grief and healing.”

Recipients of the grant are the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center(NCVC) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, the Berkeley County Mental Health Center, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, the Charleston Police Department, the Charleston Dorchester County Mental Health Center, the Charleston Coroner’s Office, the Charleston County Clerk of Courts and the Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office. The grant will fund past, current and future efforts to assist and partner with the Emanuel AME Church. 

Dean G. Kilpatrick, Ph.D., co-director of the OVC grant and NCVC director, said the grant, which will last for three years, involves “a lot of moving parts and a lot of services that will be provided” through NCVC and the eight partnering groups. 

NCVC at MUSC was approached by several agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the South Carolina District, to serve as lead agency for the OVC grant application. NCVC will be accountable for the distribution of funds to partner organizations for needed services, coordination of services and reimbursement to agencies for services already rendered in the aftermath of the tragedy. 

Part of the grant will help establish a resiliency center that will serve as a hub to connect those affected by the Emanuel AME Church massacre to a wide range of services to help them recover. The center will provide a gathering place that includes therapy and support group rooms, space for a victim navigator and space for Emanuel AME Church ministry members who are involved with coordination and navigation of the crime-related needs of the congregation.

Services designed to address crime-related mental health needs include intensive case management and navigation; support group services; evidence-based traumatic grief counseling and psychiatric care; screening and brief interventions; mental health educational resources provided via print, web-based, and web-app platforms; and community resiliency events.

“One of the things we’re excited about is the Office for Victims of Crime recognized that this can be useful not only here in Charleston. After we develop this, they will be making it available to victims of other types of hate crimes and terrorist attacks that might be happening elsewhere in the world,” Kilpatrick said. 

There also will be two groups formed in conjunction with the grant. One is a Victims Services Coordinating Council, which will have representatives from all agencies and related groups, to identify and troubleshoot problems. There also will be a Community Advisory Board made up of church members to ensure the services being provided are effective and what the congregation members really need, he said.

Alyssa Rheingold, Ph.D., grant co-director and director of clinical operations of the NCVC, said the goal is provide more holistic care to all of those in need. She has directed the specialized services for the survivors of homicide for the past 15 years with the Charleston County Sheriff’s office. 

“We’re going to implement a community-based outreach model for survivors and victims’ families that we have developed over several years through an Office of Victims of Crime demonstration initiative. Through this outreach model, we’ll provide support groups, intensive case management services and grief and trauma treatment.” 

People don’t have to come to the resiliency center to receive services.

“If folks would like us to provide services in the church, in schools, in the home, through this outreach model, we’ll go where folks need us, as opposed on waiting on them to come to us,” Rheingold said.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said the grant marks the next step in the recovery effort moving forward and thanked all the members of the Charleston County legislative delegation who helped push it forward.

“We mostly want to thank Rev. Clark and the congregation and the families that have shown us this incredible example not only to our community but to the world,” he said. “Their lead and the support of this community showed the world that love is stronger than hate and that compassion makes a difference.”

The Rev. Dr. Betty Clark, pastor of AME Emanuel Church, wrapped up the grant announcement by thanking the Department of Justice for making funds available for this critical work. 

“Today we commend the National Crime Victims Center and MUSC and our federal, state and local partners for their extraordinary effort to identify a long-term solution for victims, for families, the survivors and the Mother Emanuel church family impacted by the Emanuel 9 shooting.”

She cited a verse from the 23rd Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.  

“These passages are indicating the presence of God. This morning I want to take the opportunity to say the presence of God is deposited in each of you who have made this journey so much easier for this church family.”