Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced the launch of a new program through his office’s victim’s services unit that is aimed at providing care and guidance to the families of murder victims in the immediate aftermath of losing a loved one.
The program, which is called Philadelphia CARES, is being funded through a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The program largely entails coordinating available services within the city, and having people who have also lost a family member due to a homicide act as the first point of contact with the families of recent homicide victims to help them navigate those services.
“The crisis responders will actually be the bridge in between the family and the DA’s Office, the family and the police department, the family and the resources,” Movita Johnson-Harrell, who supervises victim services at the DA’s Office, said.
According to a press release, Philadelphia CARES will administer the grant, which will be shared with the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office and the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia. The grant, the press release said, will also expand counseling services for survivors under the Medical Examiner’s Office, and allow the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia to provide a full-time liaison to support the project and coordinate with the prosecutor’s office
Specifically, the program is set to train 12 homicide survivors to provide support to the families of murder victims in the immediate aftermath of the death. Under the program, those responders will be the first to notify the family that their loved one has died, and will then be the main point of contact between the family, the police, District Attorney’s Office, and the various services they will need. The responders will help with tasks like making funeral arrangements, finding counseling services, navigating employment issues, or getting food, or transportation for children or those who depended on the person who was murdered.
The responders will be in frequent contact with the family for the first 45 days after the homicide, and will then hand off the case to victim witness services workers within the District Attorney’s Office.
“It’s a big deal because no organization in the city currently provides a cooperative crisis response system and a comprehensive portfolio of services to crime victims,” Krasner said.
According to Jennifer Storm, victim advocate for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the program has been in development for two years, and began with an assessment of programs that are available to the families of murder victims in the city.
“This program, this type of collaborative program, will reduce victimization and will ensure that families are given one point of contact from the moment of the crime,” Storm said. “It’s continuity of care from the point of incident to the final moment that they need services. It’s not five doors they need to knock on. It’s not four different phone numbers they have to pick up. All of the resources will be funneled together collaboratively and communicatively.”