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Ex-St. Louis health director named CEO of national anti-violence organization

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ST. LOUIS — Dr. Fredrick Echols, the former St. Louis health director who had been on leave from city government for several months, was hired Monday as CEO of an anti-violence organization’s national and international efforts.

Chicago-based Cure Violence Global said Echols was chosen after an extensive search for a successor to the organization’s founder, Dr. Gary Slutkin, who will continue as a board member.

Echols at the city health department had overseen the start of St. Louis’ use of the Cure Violence model, which employs lessons from public health work to treat violence in high-crime neighborhoods like an epidemic.

A source familiar with the situation had said Echols had been on leave at least since February from his most recent St. Louis position as health commissioner, the No. 2 person in the city department.

Echols and the current health director, Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, had refused to comment. So had Mayor Tishaura O. Jones’ office and the interim director of the city personnel department, which oversees the city civil service system.

Echols, a former St. Louis County and Illinois state public health official, was appointed as health director by then-Mayor Lyda Krewson in 2019.

In 2020, Krewson changed his title to acting director after the city counselor said he didn’t quite meet the technical requirements for the job that are spelled out in the city charter.

Last September, Jones, who replaced Krewson as mayor, appointed Davis as the new director but kept Echols as health commissioner, a position he had held simultaneously with the director’s job previously.

Echols had played a key role in the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the spending of the initial $64 million in federal aid in 2020 and the issuing of health orders mandating masks and other steps.

Cure Violence, which began operating in St. Louis in June 2020, hires people from affected neighborhoods who work to interrupt the spread of violent conflicts.

The program also links people considered likely of being connected to crime with counseling, job programs and rental assistance. The program operates in several areas, including parts of the Wells-Goodfellow, Hamilton Heights, Dutchtown and Walnut Park neighborhoods.

Echols early this year had said Cure Violence in St. Louis had tracked about 500 “interruptions” or interactions that may have prevented violence.

At the same time, Richard Rosenfeld, a professor emeritus of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said the decline last year in homicides and gun assaults in Cure Violence areas was no greater than just about the same declines in neighborhoods with comparable demographics but without the program.

Cure Violence Global’s website says the organization’s approach is used in more than 30 cities in the United States and Latin America.

Updated at 7:20 p.m. Monday, May 16. (tncms-asset)bdaca456-94c7-11ec-86c3-00163ec2aa77[0](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)ecc3fe56-0ad4-11ec-9aed-00163ec2aa77[1](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)fa669908-be6a-11eb-b1b7-00163ec2aa77[2](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)d60de826-a74c-11ea-b172-00163ec2aa77[3](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)6684bc5e-96cc-11ea-90f3-00163ec2aa77[4](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)b2bfff6e-4d22-11ea-9f1f-00163ec2aa77[5](/tncms-asset)

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