Net Loss

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The program is similar in its philosophy to the Phoenix Violence Prevention Initiative, a sweeping plan that hopes to give individual communities the money and encouragement to get a grip on violence in their own neighborhoods.

Weisz says he's unsure what the pot will ultimately hold, but it could be as much as $30 million; state leaders are also talking to private foundations about additional donations.

So why have our leaders waited so long to do something that appears so smart?

Because, Weisz says, it's not an easy political choice to make. Some communities may lose out.

Yes, he admits, a job training center in a community that is not one of the half-dozen targets may not get as much money as it has previously.

But the hope is that if the pilot program is a success, it can be expanded to include more communities.

Along with this new effort, Weisz promises, will come increased accountability, for all prevention programs -- a chief concern of his boss.

"You know, there's a lot of good, quality programs out there that are all well-intentioned. They're not necessarily the best use of the funds or producing as good results as other programs are," he says. "What kind of accountability standards are there? . . . How do we know they're working? And you ask people and they say, 'Well, we don't know. We've heard this success story on this program, we've heard this person say it's changed their life, we've obviously had failures, too.'

"But how do you know whether it's really working?"

The Arizona Prevention Resource Center is sponsoring a conference in December that will address the issue of accountability, something that leaders admit has been ignored until very recently.

"There's going to be some tough stuff," Weisz says of the upcoming conference. "We're going to tell people, 'Hey, this program isn't working. Sorry, guys, but it's just not.'"

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Patti Epler
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Edward Lebow
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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.