Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order on March 14 announcing the establishment of a statewide Office of Violence Prevention. The office, which will operate within the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, will work to reduce violence and firearm misuse in North Carolina.
The new office will take a public health-oriented approach toward violence prevention and will work with other state agencies, including the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
This new office is part of Cooper's wider goal to limit violence and promote public safety. In the past, Cooper has promoted safe firearm storage and vetoed bills that would reduce background checks.
Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, the state health director and chief medical officer for the NCDHHS, said the move will help to codify collaboration between state agencies on violence prevention.
“A really key piece of this office is we'll be coordinating across other state agencies that are in the work having to do with violence prevention," Tilson said.
When viewed through a public health lens, she said violence prevention can be tackled by understanding risk and protective factors, deploying interventions and spreading best practices widely.
Tilson said a public health approach can also address the underlying drivers of violence, such as poverty and a lack of stable housing.
"It's really trying to think about people, whole people, and what is the support that we can bring to communities to prevent violence in the first place?” she said.
Tilson said the NCDHHS has already been doing work on gun violence, including publishing a report in the fall of 2022. She said the new Office of Violence Prevention will enable the agency to continue and expand its efforts.