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High-Risk Youth Team created for Buffalo teens

Many of the teens involved are survivors of shootings.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In an effort to prevent gun violence, there is a new High-Risk Youth Team in Erie County to help prevent young people from getting involved in criminal activities.

The District Attorney joined police officers, people from crime prevention programs, and others to announce the formation of this new High-Risk Youth Team on Thursday afternoon. 

It's the first program like this in the country, and there are spaces for ten children. Right now, eight are signed up. The majority of those kids are shooting survivors. They have never been arrested, so the adults who are doing this program want to keep it that way. It's a pilot program, and it's for kids ages 12 to 17. 

The program will use a combination of a lot of things from mental health services to mentorship. The D.A. talked about how important it will be for the children, their families, and their friends.

"They've been shot, but they survived. First and foremost, we don't want them killed. We don't want them shot again and dying. And secondly, we don't want them arrested," said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.

2 On Your Side talked with a bunch of the people who are involved with this program after the press conference, and they told us this really involves input from the children. They find out what their needs are and form relationships and mentorships that will last longer than the year-long program. 

"This health, wellness, harm reduction program where we bring in all of our partners here, and we try to do what we can to help them, to complete this program, which is an intense case management plan for the youth. We develop a plan for them and whatever needs they need or their families, we also bring in their families as well, and we develop a comprehensive plan with them and their families," Flynn said.

Again, the goal is to be proactive and keep the kids out of trouble and away from gun violence.

Flynn says each kid will get an individual action plan. That could involve a lot of things from counseling, to working on a G.E.D., to getting back into school, or getting a part time job. 

This also impacts their families who have to sign-off on a child's involvement. So, there's buy-in and trust from the families that has to happen. The D.A. is involved, police are involved, the school district, ECMC, and SNUG are all involved, so there are a lot of support systems. 

This can also branch out to the friends of the kids in the program and have a positive impact on them, too. The whole point is to reduce violence and help kids lead successful and healthy lives.