“It really doesn’t matter what class of people you think you’re in. Violence touches you no matter who or where you are.”Raquel Prendkowski, R.N.
Emergency Department Director, Mt. Sinai and Holy Cross Hospitals
“My whole family is police. My husband is police. And I was beaten and stabbed, in my own neighborhood, just for my cell phone.”
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience violence on a regular basis, to be under that level of stress as part of daily life. I think that’s why our violence prevention responders have become such a critical part of the emergency department team at Sinai. Many of them come from that violence. They know the anger and the fear, so they can do something that we can’t: they can connect with victims and help them work through it.”
“You come into the hospital as a black male shot—or as the family or friend of that victim—and you have people all around that you don’t trust. You have police asking questions, medical people doing and saying things you don’t understand. You don’t feel your life matters to any of them.”
“Responders talk like you, look like you, live in your neighborhood. They know your friends, your family, the corner store you shop at. They may have been in a street organization. They may have lost someone. They may have been shot.”
“They know what you’re feeling. They know who to talk to to calm things down. They go to the mother and explain what’s happening. They go to the brother and say, “Hey, we’re not going to do this right now. Concentrate on your brother being in this hospital, not on going out and retaliating.” If a family wants them to stay, they’ll stay in that waiting room all night.”
“And when you leave the E.D., they go back out into the neighborhood with you to help you pick up the pieces and move on. They work to change things on the back end, which is the only place it’s ever going to change.”
Our partners are building the relationships and community networks that act as protective factors against violence for both victims and perpetrators.
Nearly 20 years ago, Michael Reese made a grant to a young, physician-led organization that hoped to prevent the spread of violence by using disease control methods: interrupt transmission, identify and treat high-risk individuals, and change social norms. Seven years later, a U.S. Department of Justice study confirmed that the approach worked. That organization, now known as Cure Violence, had achieved a 16 to 28 percent decline in the number of shootings in four of the seven communities in which it operated.
Today, we continue to support partners that use evidence-based treatments to prevent community violence, and with good reason. Violence is a public health issue. It causes death, disease, and incalculable human suffering, at an estimated cost of 3.3 percent of U.S. GDP each year. In Illinois, that translates to more than $27 billion in 2017 alone.
Our hospital-based violence prevention initiatives currently support responders or violence recovery staff at six area hospitals, all of which are Level I trauma centers. One of those trauma centers, at University of Chicago Medicine, sees the highest rate of community violence cases in the country.
“You could be taking your garbage out right now, but if you got tattoos and if you get shot, the perception is you’re a bad person.”Read an interview with responders
In addition to supporting hospital-based programs, we continue to support community and street-outreach prevention initiatives. We participate in the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a 35-member funders’ collaborative, and we support Communities Partnering for Peace (CP4P), a collaborative of street-outreach organizations in nine communities deeply affected by gun violence.
Over a four-year period, patients who engaged with hospital responders at Advocate Christ Medical Center were 50 percent less likely to experience reinjury compared to those who were not engaged.
Like hospital-based interventions, CP4P’s work is hyperlocal. Outreach workers are members of the communities they serve. When they hear of a threat of violence, they intervene to deescalate tensions and offer alternatives. Aided by community-specific data aggregated weekly from city ShotSpotter sensors and incident reports, CP4P workers identify high-risk individuals—including those returning to the community after incarceration—and work to mitigate that risk. Depending on needs, they can connect individuals to family support services, case management, legal services, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and employment and job training. Outreach workers themselves receive training: Metropolitan Peace Academy, which teaches nonviolence best practices and evidence-based interventions such as trauma-informed care and restorative justice, is part of CP4P.
Beyond providing services to individuals and families, CP4P partner organizations work to create safe public spaces for everyone. At local parks, gyms, and schools, a regular program of social and recreational activities called Light in the Night draws hundreds of participants. In neighborhoods where it’s dangerous to sit on the front porch, creating shared, safe space is an important first step to resetting expectations and, ultimately, community norms.
Interrupting violence at crisis points for victims and their family/community members
Project: Hospital response program that tracks outcomes in a city-wide, centralized database.
Providing multidisciplinary team support to victims of violence during admission and post-discharge
Grantee: University of Chicago Medical Center
Project: Integrated Hospital-Based Violence Recovery Program (VRP)
Using street outreach to reduce homicides and shootings in Chicago communities most affected by gun violence
Grantee: Metropolitan Family Services
Project: Communities Partnering for Peace