Health Network Joins Frontline to Stop Community Violence
Darnell Powell was shot five times in the Jersey Coast town in front of his son, who was a victim of a love triangle. He didn’t even know the man who left a bullet on his thigh.
Nile Clark left a boyfriend who abused him and almost escaped. Ten bullets penetrated her body, leaving scars on her abdomen, groin, arms and legs. Her injured hand will never make a fist again.
They are the faces of the gun violence epidemic in our country, a public health crisis that affects all of us and requires comprehensive action.
The health network is now joining the front lines to help end the cycle of violence, providing a range of support from the bedside of the emergency room. The goal is to help victims choose a healthier path. As the CEO of New Jersey’s largest health network and chairman of the Brady Movement’s board of directors, we support efforts to fundamentally resolve this public health crisis.
This method of reducing violence is the core content of President Joe Biden’s proposal to provide $5 billion to the nation’s anti-violence program, which is currently included in the House version of the “Better Rebuild Act”. This funding is supported by our network and 17 other leading health systems across the country, as detailed in a letter sent to Congress earlier this summer.
A radical change is urgently needed.Last year, gun violence almost claimed 44,000 Americans, The national record. We lost nearly 120 people More than 200 people are shot and killed every day. They must endure the life-long consequences of these injuries. This is a terrible epidemic, especially in communities of color.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young black men and teenagers account for more than one-third of gun homicide victims.Their mortality rate is 20 times higher More than white men of the same age.
New Jersey has a promising strategy to stop the cycle of violence. Two years ago, the State Attorney General’s Office used $20 million in Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds to establish or support nine hospital-based violence intervention programs. This innovative approach to the root causes of gun violence was and remains the country’s largest investment in such programs. Nationwide, hospital-based violence intervention programs have reduced the number of homicides in the implementation area by 60%.
Hackensack Meridian Health received one of these grants and created a program called Project HEAL (Help, Authorization, and Leadership) at the University of Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune. In the last three years, more than 400 patients in the hospital have been treated for stabbings, shootings and other violent injuries. The clinical team is eager to provide more services than the typical “treatment and release” for victims of violence.
So far, Project HEAL has helped nearly 50 people since its launch in March, including Darnell and Nile. Counselors who are survivors of violence work closely with clients themselves to develop detailed plans that include counseling options, assistance in obtaining support from medical insurance and the National Victim Compensation Fund, job training and education opportunities, transportation and legal counsel. This kind of intervention is essential: 40% of victims of violence Injuries again within five years, and one-fifth will die within these five years.
We know that social and structural determinants and easy access to guns are often at the root of the cycle of violence. This is why the program relies on leading non-profit organizations to support our community members after they are discharged from the hospital. Our partners include a community college to provide a seamless connection with higher education and vocational training. Cooperation with the non-profit legal center connects our patients with legal support and assistance. We also have a partner who provides mobile phones to our patients.
Every community will experience some form of violence, and we have all paid a heavy price for this public health crisis.In addition to the long-term injuries and trauma suffered by the victim after being discharged from the hospital, the cost of treatment for the first visit for the gunshot victim exceeds $25 billion According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, annual treatment costs and lost productivity. This does not include the significant ongoing costs and social/emotional issues that almost every victim of gun violence suffers. The ratio of non-fatal violent injuries to fatal injuries is more than 100 to 1, and the average annual care cost per patient is close to 30,000 US dollars. These costs are borne by all of us.
Darnell was helped in obtaining health insurance and connecting to a program to obtain his professional driver’s license. Darnell continues his consulting and hopes to have his own freight company one day.
Nile received consultations related to the State Victim Compensation Fund, and regularly talked to victims of domestic violence, shared her story and provided support. Ultimately, she hopes to run a non-profit organization for women in abusive relationships.
Medical care is increasingly transcending the boundaries of hospitals to meet the needs of the community. We understand that reducing gun violence is not just the mission of law enforcement agencies or legislators-it requires a multidisciplinary approach. We know that violence is cyclical. If we can break this cycle, we can prevent future injuries and future hospital admissions — and help make our communities healthier. This is not only of clinical significance, but also of common sense.