There is a crisis in Santa Ana. Violence in our communities has claimed the life of one too many young people. Too many families are mourning the death of a child as a result of violence in our communities. One can’t help but be extremely outraged by the possibility that some elected officials may be considering to use the recent death of young people in Santa Ana as a pretext to pay back a political debt owed to the Santa Ana Police Officers Association.
According to a recent budgetary analysis conducted by The Advancement Project and published by Resilience Orange County, the Police Department receives 53% of the City Budget, which for this fiscal year amounted to over $120,000,000. On the other hand, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services only receives about 8% of the City Budget, which this fiscal year amounted to a little over $19,000,000. This is the crisis that has been happening in Santa Ana, the crisis of not prioritizing youth, which has resulted in violence and numerous deaths.
Santa Ana is a City with a population of about 330,000 residents and a significantly young population. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, about a third of the population is below the age of 18. That means that over 100,000 Santa Ana residents are minors and children. If we are wise and consider the science readily available on youth development, we would consider the youth population in Santa Ana to include people up to the age of 24-25. In doing so, the youth population in Santa Ana increases significantly beyond 100,000 residents.
The Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers recently released the results from a Behavioral Health Needs Assessment Survey. The findings reveal something profoundly troubling. Those surveyed stated that clinics in Santa Ana met 0% of youth behavioral health needs in regards to supportive services and case management. The findings call our attention to an interesting fact. Santa Ana has over 100,000 young residents and yet there is no Santa Ana Department of Healthy Youth Development and the only systemic response to youth behavior that the city funds, is the Police Department.
The credibility and intentions of any elected official that calls for a one-dimensional approach to the violence in our community by proposing increases to the already disproportionate spending on the Police Department, will be questioned. Serious conversations regarding violence in our communities require substance, which means going beyond the, “let’s talk about gun control” rhetoric as well. Let’s talk about what is causing youth trauma, youth stress, youth anger, youth rage in Santa Ana. Let’s talk about what science states are best non-suppression, non-punitive based responses and practices regarding violence prevention and intervention. Let’s talk about rent control, housing, green space, safe streets and socio-emotional supports for developing youth. Let’s talk about creating a Santa Ana Youth Department that can build and sustain a youth focused city infrastructure promoting healthy youth development.
Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” What keener revelation can we obtain from assessing the status of youth investment in Santa Ana, than the tragic consequences of failing to meet the needs of our young residents?
Abraham Medina is the Executive Director of Resilience Orange County. He is currently enrolled at UCI working on a Masters program in Legal and Forensic Psychology at UCI. He is a DACA recipient and has been part of the immigrant youth movement in Orange County over the past decade
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