In Charlotte, Vice President Kamala Harris announces mental health funds for NC schools

Tom George Image
Thursday, January 11, 2024
In Charlotte, VP Harris announces mental health funds for NC schools
A Raleigh advocate working to promote mental health and reduce gun crime was among those who met with Vice President Kamala Harris in Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Vice President Kamala Harris was in Charlotte on Thursday sharing a message about preventing gun violence and supporting more mental health resources for students.

Among those invited to meet with the vice president was Gerald Givens -- the founder of Raleigh Boots on the Ground. For Givens, it's personal -- he has lost seven members of his family to gun violence -- including his grandfather.

"I was in the Air Force, big bad strong, but when I walked away from my brother's casket, I just fell to my knees, I never felt a sharper pain in my life," he recalled.

And more recently, one that stung a little harder - his 2-year-old cousin accidentally shot and killed himself after getting a hold of his father's gun.

"The hardest part of that was hearing the pain in my grandmother's voice and knowing that our family was going through this tragedy one more time," Givens said.

Out of his pain came purpose. He founded Raleigh Boots on the Ground, which works to tackle gun violence in Raleigh and provide resources for victims and survivors.

Givens was among several dozen advocates invited to meet with Harris visiting a middle school in Charlotte, working to address mental health resources for students.

"We need to make sure they are safe to dream, that they are safe to learn, that they are safe to be," the vice president said.

Harris also touted $285 million in federal funding from the Safer Communities Act, $12 million of which will go to North Carolina to hire more counselors.

When Givens got to meet the vice president, it was the same message he wanted her to hear loud and clear.

"The mental health impact is critical to how we resolve gun violence in our community," he said.

Back in Raleigh, there is a new initiative in the works -- his group will be teaming up with WakeMed to launch a Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program with a trained staffer ready to meet with victims of gun violence taken to the hospital and making sure the mental health support continues once a victim is discharged from Wake County's only Level 1 trauma center.

WakeMed's program is set to start in the coming months once that full-time staff member begins work. Durham has a similar program in place already through Duke Hospital.