Gang intervention grant to run out by the end of the year

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- Yakima County's gang problem is not news. Nor are the County's ongoing efforts to fight it.

But those efforts are about to take a hit. A big one.

A grant from the state's Gang Resistance and Intervention Program -- known as GRIP -- is about to run out.

"It has the potential to be a setback."

That's Yakima County Commission Chair Kevin Bouchey. He told me money awarded last year will run out by the end of this year. It amounted to roughly $180,000. Yakima County asked for more money, but was denied.

Money for at-risk youth intervention programs in Yakima, Sunnyside, and Toppenish will run out in just five weeks. The contracts for a pair of gang intervention specialists will come to an end.

I asked Bouchey if Yakima County can afford to keep these programs going.

"At this point in time, we don't have anything specifically identified that we're applying for. We'll be taking advantage of opportunities as they arise, but currently, at this point in time, we don't have anything in the hopper."

The burden going forward will fall on city leaders.

"They're going to have to take a good look at their own resources within their own city budgets, for one," said Bouchey. "They're going to have to reach out to some of their partners within their community. Their school districts, their hospitals, civic organizations, and, as I said, private businesses."

Anna Marie Dufault supervises the gang interventionists.

"They're very critical," she said. "They're very important."

One of them has 30 youth in his caseload, 25 more on the waiting list.

"We want young people to be successful and to finish their educations, and he helps that to happen," Dufault.

Bouchey knows the grant was intended to be seed money. But when it comes to gang prevention, our cities must become self-sufficient.

The Yakima County Gang Commission meeting next week will look at gang prevention strategies for the upcoming year.