Department of Justice awards almost $9 million to MUSC-based mass violence center

October 12, 2023
Woman wearing a green jacket claps while turned toward a table where at least two women are sitting. They are also clapping.
Amy Solomon, assistant attorney general with the Office of Justice Programs in the Department of Justice, applauds while announcing the new grant for the National Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center. Photos by Sarah Pack

The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded almost $9 million to the National Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center, which is based at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Amy Solomon, assistant attorney general in the Office of Justice Programs in the DOJ, made the announcement. “This new grant from the Office for Victims of Crime will continue the center's vital work by expanding our foundation of evidence-based practices centered on addressing the behavioral health needs of survivors,” she said during a visit to Charleston.

“It will enable the center to provide more training and site-based assistance, including community-based learning collaboratives that will help strengthen emergency response strategies. And it will support a national conference to convene the experts and stakeholders to share best practices as the center has done. All along, we'll build on the lessons we've learned here in Charleston and in other communities, enlarging our store of resources and building communities’ capacity for resilience.”

MUSC has been working with the DOJ for years. A 2016 DOJ grant helped pay for support groups, intensive case management services and grief and trauma treatment for survivors, victims’ families and others affected by the murders of nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

The 2017 establishment of the National Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center at MUSC built on that work through a cooperative agreement with the DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime.

Woman stands on far left behind a podium. She's looking at two tables with the letters NMVVC on them. There are two men and three women sitting at the tables. 
Eugenia Pedley, of the Office for Victims of Crime, stands on the far left as a panel of MUSC experts answer questions about the National Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center. Dr. Dean Kilpatrick, far right, holds a microphone, as he responds.

The center’s team includes scholars, researchers, victim assistance professionals, technical experts and members of local and national organizations. They have experience in mass violence victim assistance, policies related to survivors’ rights and services and ways to promote justice and healing.

Lisa Saladin, Ph.D., executive vice president for Academic Affairs and MUSC provost, spoke on behalf of MUSC leaders at a ceremony announcing the $8.9 million award. It will help pay for three more years of the center’s work. 

“It is appropriate that this national center devoted to building resilient communities was created in 2017 in this resilient city. It will continue to serve as a national example and valuable resource, one that inspires us to use our experiences to teach, to learn and to give hope to aching hearts in other communities that experience the tragedy of mass violence,” Saladin said.

woman with short blonde hair and glasses wearing a taupe colored suit jacket speaks at a podium. 
Dr. Lisa Saladin says knowing that MUSC colleagues are able to help in the aftermath of mass violence is a source of pride.

“Each time I hear about and witness through media new incidents of mass violence, as I process the shock and the sadness, I am filled with pride, knowing that MUSC and my colleagues and friends here will be there for the victims in the aftermath.”

Dean Kilpatrick, Ph.D., director of the Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center, said the ultimate goal of everyone involved is to prevent mass violence. “We would all be happy if there was no more mass violence and prevention efforts worked. But until that time, many mass violence victims and survivors need information and services. And there's a continuing need to improve our nation's capacity to prepare for mass violence and better serve victims and survivors throughout the recovery process.”

He said the center focuses on research, planning, training, technology, collaboration and reaching everyone who needs its help. “OVC, in this new grant, has asked us to increase our involvement and bring our mental health perspective to communities that experience mass violence and join the team that helps communities identify their needs and plan for services after the event. We will also work with law enforcement, first responders and emergency managers to make sure that emergency plans and communities include mass violence incidents and the unique needs of the victims and survivors.”

Blonde woman wearing a dark suit holds her hands in prayer position while speaking at a podium. 
Kristina Rose, director of the Office for Victims of Crime at the DOJ, says daily gun violence is killing people at alarming rates.

Kristina Rose, director of the Office for Victims of Crime in the Department of Justice, said the center is an important resource in a time when violence shows no sign of ebbing. “The task before us now is just as, if not more, urgent than it was eight years ago. FBI data indicates that hate crimes are on the rise with almost two-thirds of the more than 12,000 victims targeted because of their race or ethnicity. And at the same time, daily gun violence in our communities continues to claim lives at alarming rates. Firearms were responsible for 48,000 deaths in 2022, and 20,000 of those were homicides.”

Some of those murders make national news. Among the incidents the center has helped address in recent years:

The center also helps with crises that don’t involve murder but do have a mass physical and mental health impact, such as the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. Kilpatrick said his team relies on evidence to offer the best resources and advice in every incident. 

“All of our activities and products will be guided by information we obtain from needs assessment data gathered from studies of communities that have experienced mass violence and from direct survivors of mass violence. They are the true experts on how mass violence changes lives forever and what survivors need. So their voices will be our guiding star.”

Solomon said the people involved in this work has what she called a sacred responsibility to bring relief, deliver justice and restore hope. “These are not light duties. The work we're doing, the work that you are doing, meets each of these solemn obligations. On behalf of all of us at the Department of Justice, we thank you so much for your service. We thank you for the work that you're doing on behalf of victims and communities across the country, and we congratulate you on this award.”

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