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PATERSON, NJ — Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh announced a potentially ground breaking study coming to the city; it would look at the role neighborhoods play when it comes to substance use and mental health outcomes in the city’s youth.

The five year study will be funded by a $1.8 million grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health to Dr. Ijeoma Opara, a community based researcher and professor in the school of social welfare at Stony Brook University.

“We’re hoping that with what Dr. Opara is going to do here in Paterson, will help us fix our skeletal structures in our society,” Sayegh said.

Dr. Opara, who has worked with the city on various programs, said she’s on a mission to change the narrative that urban youth are hopeless and doomed.

“I don’t want to leave the city of Paterson with nothing but data being collected, I want to leave the city of Paterson with solutions, solutions that could be used to improve the city but also to improve other cities,” she said.

The study will zero in on local youth between the ages of 13 and 21 by way of venue-based sampling. With gun violence being a substantial issue plaguing the city’s youth, officials hope the findings tackle this epidemic head on.

“We don’t want people to normalize those types of attitudes around violence,” Mayor Sayegh said. “We are hoping that this survey will tell us where they are and get them where they need to be.”