Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced on Wednesday the creation of Philadelphia CARES, a new program to provide care to those who lose a loved one to homicide.
Philadelphia CARES, funded by a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), is intended to provide advocacy and immediate support to loved ones of homicide victims. No other city agency currently provides such a service throughout Philly.
“Families and survivors of homicide endure nothing short of catastrophic damage to their lives when they lose a loved one, and to make matters worse, they often have to deal with law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and service providers alone,” said Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner. "But thanks to this grant and Philadelphia CARES, we’ll now be able to help."
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Philadelphia CARES (Crisis Assistance, Response, and Engagement for Survivors) is set to provide a service many survivors of homicide have long cried out for: help navigating the criminal justice system in the wake of a devastating and often traumatic loss.
“Ensuring immediate and skilled crisis response to surviving families and loved ones in the aftermath of a homicide is vital and necessary," said Pennsylvania Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm. "Support from Philadelphia CARES will allow those who experience unthinkable tragedy and loss the ability to navigate the steps needed to heal and move through the justice system."
How Philadelphia CARES work
The core of the plan for Philadelphia CARES involves training 12 "Peer Crisis Responders." Including people of diverse ethnic and language backgrounds, all of whom have lost a loved one to homicide, the PCRs are going to be available around the clock to respond to new homicides. The DA's office aims for the program to be up and running after Labor Day.
"Since the 12 PCRs, who will live in neighborhoods located in different sections of Philadelphia to ensure city-wide coverage, have been through the life-changing experience of losing a loved one to homicide, they will be able to bring their expertise and experience to help other survivors," the D.A.'s office said in an announcement of the new program.
PCRs are to be deployed when a homicide occurs through a 24/7 telephone service, the DA's office said, and accompany police to the medical examiner's office, crime scene or police station when survivors are informed of the homicide.
The PCRs are also set to remain with survivors for a 24-hour period providing help with the multitude of concerns that can arise after a murder: explaining police protocol, interacting with police, handling media attention, obtaining child care and other needed services.
After 24 hours, PCRs will help create Support and Recovery Plans for survivors to address long-term issues that will come up in the months and years after a homicide. In the 45 days after the homicide, PCRs are set to provide services like accompanying survivors to court dates, assisting in obtaining referrals to medical services, communicating with law enforcement and assisting with getting crime victim compensation. After that point, they'll refer survivors to other services and groups that can assist by providing long-term support.
“Experts agree that gun violence and homicide is a public health issue," said Aetna Better Health of Pennsylvania COO Stephanie Ledesma. "Because the CARES Model was designed specifically to engage co-victims of homicide immediately following an incident, this work will make a difference in reducing harm and trauma for families that have tragically lost a loved one to homicide.”