PITTSFIELD — The state wants to stop domestic violence before it starts, and it's looking to partners in Berkshire County to make that happen.
In a visit to the Elizabeth Freeman Center on Friday, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said great measures are taken to ensure that young people know how to drive. And "the area that we're focusing on today is equally important."
She said social and emotional wellness are vital.
"It's all about making sure that these kids have a foundation to stand on," she said.
Polito came to Pittsfield to announce a $189,928 grant for a partnership between the Elizabeth Freeman Center and 18 Degrees' Live Out Loud Youth Project to serve Black, Latinx and LGBTQ youths in Pittsfield.
The initiative, dubbed the Educating Equity Project, is geared toward preventing domestic violence and showing young people the path to healthy, fulfilling relationships.
The grant was one of five similar awards statewide totaling nearly $1 million. Other recipients are Safe Passage in Northampton, the Boston Public Health Commission, Triangle in Boston, and Family and Community Resources in Brockton.
In the Berkshires, the grant will help the Elizabeth Freeman Center expand its youth group offerings at Taconic High School.
Regi Wingo, who will lead the Educating Equity Project, said it will allow the center to convene more youth groups, folding more diverse populations into them.
He said the idea is to teach youths how to practice the kinds of healthy relationships that might not be modeled for them in their home lives.
"Getting funds like this allows us to really, really go upstream, and see why people are drowning instead of just standing and pulling people out of the river and trying to get them up on their feet," he said.
The young people in Berkshire County are "not in great shape," he said.
"If no one's having these conversations with them, then where are they getting the information from?" Wingo said.
The grant also will help the group to get innovative with its message and expand into Instagram, now that "Facebook is for old people."
"I get told that daily," Wingo said to laughs from the crowd.
Domestic violence survivors are at higher risk for a slew of other health issues down the road, said Ruth Blodgett, director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Bureau of Community Health and Prevention.
"It's a vicious cycle here that we're trying to prevent," she said.
Polito gave nods to Mayor Linda Tyer, District Attorney Andrea Harrington and the Elizabeth Freeman Center for coming together to address the issue of domestic violence.
Tyer said the city now works in alignment with the center, longtime "warriors on this issue," as well as county partners in the room.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder on many issues, and this is one of the most important," Tyer said.
Janis Broderick, executive director for the center, said prevention work offers hope.
"This is really our hope for the future," she told a crowd that had piled into a small meeting space in the center's Francis Avenue space. "So, we are smiling today."
Amanda Drane can be contacted at email@example.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.