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National Mental Health Innovation Center Announces the Avielle Initiative, Started by Parents Who Lost Daughter in Sandy Hook Shooting

New initiative will include internship opportunities for young scientists and innovative technology to prevent violence

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Written by Julia Milzer on November 13, 2020
What You Need To Know

The National Mental Health Innovation Center announced a new initiative - the Avielle Initiative, focused on building compassion and preventing violence in communities. The Center was selected to take on this initiative by the Avielle Foundation, a recognized national leader in this work. 


Today, the National Mental Health Innovation Center (NMHIC) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus announces the Avielle Foundation has selected the center to transition their work of building compassion and preventing violence through neuroscience research, community engagement and education.

The Avielle Foundation is closing after starting seven years ago by Jennifer Hensel and the late Jeremy Richman. They started the foundation after the death of their daughter Avielle, along with 25 of her peers and educators in the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The organization became recognized as a leader to advance the field of preventing violence by funding research, educational programs and events, and by training the next generation of scientists. While the foundation is closing, their legacy will live on in projects at the newly-launched Avielle Initiative, operating as a program within NMHIC. 

“The Avielle Foundation was created to foster an understanding of what leads someone to engage in harmful behavior, the risk factors, and conversely to identify and engender protective factors that lead away from violence and toward compassion, kindness, connection, community and resilience,” said Jennifer Hensel, co-founder of the Avielle Foundation. “We chose the National Mental Health Innovation Center to continue our work because of their proven ability to implement science-driven solutions to promote brain health, public health and community engagement.”

The Avielle Initiative will leverage the resources and staff of NMHIC and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to continue expanding the mission of the foundation and creating new resources to build compassion and prevent violence while keeping the legacy and memory alive of Avielle and Jeremy Richman.

“The Avielle Foundation did incredible work during their many years of operation and at generating dialogue and building a deeper understanding of origins of violence and how to prevent it. While the Avielle Initiative will be different in terms of the work we do and how we go about it, the goals of building compassion and, ultimately, contributing to efforts to prevent violence are very much part of the Initiative. We’re humbled they selected our center to lead the next phase of their work,” said Matt Vogl, executive director at the NMHIC.

The Avielle Initiative will have two major components. First, the NMHIC will leverage innovative and science-based technology to create resources for researchers, clinicians, organizations and individuals that improve the quality of clinical care, build empathy, and empower people to improve their own wellbeing. The initiative will also create ways to connect people in order to promote health, prevent illness, and eliminate barriers to access and support.

The second component is the establishment of an endowment to fund the Jeremy Richman Brain Health Internship and Fellowship, named in honor of the co-founder. The program will help shape the careers of young scientists interested in increasing our understanding of brain health to inform the development of products and programs focused on building compassion and preventing violence. The paid internship will be awarded annually to a high school or undergraduate student. The fellowship will be awarded to an individual starting the post-doctoral phase of their research career. NMHIC will start accepting applications for the internship and fellowship this spring.

To learn more about the Avielle Initiative and Jeremy Richman Brain Health Internship and Fellowship program, visit mentalhealthinnovation.org