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Acenda Institute of Health Innovation Announces Virtual Gun Violence Summit

In light of the surge of gun violence across the nation which has become even more pervasive during the pandemic, Acenda Institute of Health Innovation (AIHI) is hosting a summit to shift the approach on gun violence to one of public health.

The hybrid event, “Merging Science and Safety: Addressing Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue,” will bring together national public health experts, community stakeholders, health care providers, violence interventionists and gun violence coalitions from different states, as well as local political leaders to discuss issues and solutions.

The event is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10 from 9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. The general public, individuals and families affected by gun violence in their communities, community leaders, mental and physical health providers and local and national public health officials are invited to join the complimentary event virtually.

According to the American Public Health Association (APHA), gun violence costs the U.S. $280 billion annually, including work loss, medical/mental health care, emergency transportation, police/criminal justice activities, insurance claims processing, employer costs and decreased quality of life.

The Gun Violence Summit will cover gun violence as a public health issue in an effort to clarify what it means to address gun violence as a public health concern, identify areas of best practices and better support local organizations that are focused on gun violence as a priority. The event will focus on violence in Salem County, N.J. as well as Camden and Newark, but will also include representation from states such as New York, California, Louisiana and Illinois, to share their approaches.

“As gun violence is devastating communities across the nation, it’s clear that these fatal or non-fatal outcomes are threatening the overall physical, mental and even economic health of large segments of our population and could be considered an epidemic,” said Melissa Fox, MHA, FACMPE, FACHE, Chief Operating Officer, Acenda Integrated Health. “The Summit is the catalyst for bringing people together so we can address issues in our own communities and work to reduce gun violence.”

Expert panelists include:

Part 1: 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. ET (focuses on who gun violence is affecting)

  • David Muhammad, Executive Director, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (Oakland, California), has worked to implement positive youth development into youth justice systems around the country and was the primary author of NICJR’s seminal report, A Positive Youth Justice System.
  • Liza Chowdhury, Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), City University of New York (CUNY), advocate for continued opportunities for students inside correctional facilities around the nation.
  • Patrick Young, NOLA Office of Gun Violence Prevention, City of New Orleans, released the Generational Gun Violence Reduction Plan aimed at decreasing the city’s incidences of gun-related injuries and deaths over the next 50 years.
  • Solomon Middleton Williams, Deputy Director, Newark City Street Team (NCST). Founded by Mayor Ras J. Baraka as Newark’s community-based violence reduction strategy, NCST draws upon an evidenced-based, trauma informed approach to violence reduction.
  • Tracey Wells-Huggins, RN, founder, Renewed Minds, is a nationally-known master facilitator and trainer of communities, advocates and systems on the work of justice transformation.

Part 2: 12:15-2:30 p.m. ET (focuses on addressing gun violence)

  • Dr. Daniel Semenza, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, Rutgers University – Camden. His research examines the causes and consequences of gun violence and health disparities related to community violence exposure.
  • Nashon Hornsby, JD, LLM, Assistant Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health, oversees the Community Health and Wellness Unit, the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health and Oral Health Services. Serving the State of New Jersey for approximately 20 years, he served as a Senior Policy Advisor for former Governor Jon S. Corzine and Chief of Operations of the Department of Health, Division of Family Health Services.
  • Malcolm Yates, Director of Government Relations, Public Health Management Corporation. His work with advocacy began at age 11 through his work with Vietnam Veterans of America’s campaign for the war against drugs and violence. After his 5-year-old brother was murdered at a Southwest Philadelphia candy store, he remains an advocate for non-violence and stricter gun control laws through the Marcus J. Yates Foundation.
  • Retha Onitiri, Program Director Consultant, Salvation & Social Justice, a non-partisan Black faith-rooted organization and a racial justice leader in New Jersey. Her advocacy has led to statewide adoption of racial impact analysis for sentencing, voting rights restoration for people on probation and parole, the independent prosecutor law and restricting solitary confinement.
  • Christopher Patterson, Assistant Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Firearm Violence Prevention. Chris has been a thought partner and implementor to Chicago’s largest violence intervention efforts, READI Chicago and Community Partnering 4 Peace.
  • Aric Johnson, National Coordinator for Strategic Partnerships, Cure Violence Global, is a licensed social worker, counselor and motivational speaker who utilizes his own personal experiences with drug addiction, incarceration and other struggles to provide direction to those who have lost their way.

Launched in 2021 by Acenda Integrated Health, AIHI integrates insights from across Health & Human Services to advance the behavioral health sectors in the areas of Innovation, Population Health, Policy & Advocacy and Research.

To register for the virtual event visit:

About Acenda Integrated Health  

Acenda Integrated Health is a nonprofit organization dedicated to industry-leading prevention, treatment and wellness services compassionately delivered to ensure that every individual, family and community achieves their greatest potential. Acenda is at the forefront of community-based services, providing over 100 health and social service programs at 60+ locations throughout a 12-county region in New Jersey. For more information, visit

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