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Mid-City CAN awarded a health-impact grant

Mid-City CAN was awarded an 18-month grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with funding from The California Endowment.

The grant was more than $95,000 to support Mid-City CAN's work on restorative justice, including how alternatives to traditional criminal justice "can reduce the risk of problems such as depression, obesity, and violence," according to the grant.

The grant supports Mid-City CAN doing a Health Impact Assessment, which examines how public health is affected by projects and policies that may not traditionally be considered health-related.

"HIA is a tool to help folks that are operating outside the health sector understand the implications – the health implications – of their decision making," said Kara Blankner, manager of the Health Impact Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts. "This is a way you can bring health into the discussion."

Mid-City CAN will examine the City Heights pilot project called Restorative Community Conferencing, which gets referrals from the San Diego County Probation department, as well as the District Attorney and Public Defender's office. The conferencing project uses restorative justice, which focuses on using a community-led process that repairs the harm offenders have done instead of trying to punish offenders.

That work will be used by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors when considering whether to adopt a restorative justice alternative to youth incarceration for the Probation Department, and by the City of San Diego City Council when considering a restorative justice alternative to youth arrest for the San Diego Police Department, according to the grant.

This is a decision-making sector that is tailor made for HIA, considering the many things that happen when youth enter the prison system, Blankner said, citing the lasting impact on these individuals in later life.

The long-term consequences of arresting and incarcerating young people, include them not being able to get a job because of a criminal record, she said. This also is linked to an individual's ability to access goods, services, nutritious food and quality healthcare. Other repercussions include being ineligible for affordable housing, potentially leading to homelessness, which is also linked to diminished educational attainment and job prospects.

"All of those things—employment, housing and education—are linked through the research to health," she said.

They also have significant implications for a person's mental health, financial health, physical health, reproductive health, and general well-being in the long run, she said.

Mid-City CAN's application stood out because of its well-rounded approach to the HIA process, which included stakeholders from multiple perspectives on the issue, decision makers and the population that potentially is impacted, she said. The HIA can usually be completed in 9 to 12 months, allowing time for data collection, analysis and stakeholder engagement and a few extra months to start the project.

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