MARTIN: An administrative answer to tragedy

Published 2:55 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Last week I attended the public discussion on the recommendations of the Ad Hoc committee appointed by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. to address youth violence in the community.

The recommendations mostly took the form of preliminary plans for a new Youth Development Center and restructuring the way different social services communicate with each other and how their functions are delegated. The center would be the main point of contact for children and their families and would allow the service organizations to better communicate with each other and other government entities.

The plan calls for existing social services in the community for at-risk youths and their families to have a central location of offices to better communicate with each other to identify and address issues facing young children more effectively.

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One central point is to be able to better track a child’s progress and needs and to more quickly get the correct service to meet those needs.

Mayor Flaggs spoke in front of a flow chart indicating the organization and hierarchy of services and organizations. At the top is an advisory board, below are larger organizations like youth court, the Vicksburg-Warren School District, and the Vicksburg Police Department, as well as non-profits like the United Way and Good Shepherd.

There are dozens of separate social services designed for children and their families in Vicksburg and Warren County. It is easy to imagine that even if all volunteers and employees of these organizations are doing their very best, the fractured nature, and the lack of a system to organize their functions would inevitably leave blind spots and children that won’t get the help they need.

I by no means wish to imply that these organizations, dedicated to the well-being of children in the community, don’t play well together. To my understanding, cooperation among them has been a major factor in identifying who needs help where and who gets what.

However, by creating a standardized, formal requirement of communication between the organizations as Mayor Flaggs’ plan suggests, we can at least shore up the leaks caused by a lack of oversight between each agency.

About 50 people attended the meeting, and those that wished to add comments or questions to the discussion at the tail end of the event were generally supportive of the plan.

That the issue of youth violence in Vicksburg could be addressed as an organizational problem may seem like a soft response to an unthinkable tragedy. But then, the city’s only real function is the administration of services and the passage of laws.

Time will tell, but my hunch is that a more organized system is easier to run and frees up resources previously used in addressing problems caused by a lack of communication. I hope the plan comes to fruition. If done correctly, it could have a positive and substantial impact on some of our most vulnerable citizens.