NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – This year is on track to be another violent year for the New Haven.
More people have been shot this year than any other year in the past decade.
Experts said gun violence is a vicious cycle that continues if there is no interference. Health professionals are trying to interrupt that cycle – starting at the hospital.
Trauma experts know that patients who show up injured from a gunshot often need more than just stitches. Forming connections with patients is where healing continues.
The Elm City is rich in history. New Haven is home to one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, but, in some neighborhoods, gunfire often echoes in the street.
Yellow crime tape is a familiar site, and a steady stream of victims is mounting.
“After the dust settles from the situation, we need to tend to the patient and to the family,” said James Dodington with Yale Medicine.
Dodington is part of a team at Yale-New Haven Hospital who are on a mission to help victims.
“Give them case management resources to help them long-term in their recovery or to help a family who is grieving with the loss of a loved one,” he said.
Recovery is part of the goal of the crisis intervention team. It’s made up of hospital staff and paraprofessionals who work with patients and their families to develop a plan. They call it the “golden moment” when they can improve lives by stopping the cycle of violence.
In New Haven, there have been more than 80 shootings so far this year. That’s 80 families impacted by gun violence.
A core member of the crisis intervention team witnessed gun violence firsthand.
“I was shot when I was a teenager on two separate occasions, and when I was injured, I didn’t have a great experience at the hospital. No one followed up. The experience was just horrible,” said Pepe Vega, the crisis intervention team’s lead outreach associate. “I didn’t have anybody to help me, walk me through it. I didn’t know what to do next.”
Victims of gun violence are at high risk for reinjury and retaliation. The intervention team believes one way to prevent more violence is to address the root cause.
“Addressing these deficiencies is really the issue because how did you get here in the first place,” Vega said.
From housing to employment to childcare, the intervention team connects patients with the hospital or community-based services, and the follow up is relentless.
“After you call a certain amount of times, you have to go to their house, find out what’s really going on, and sometimes you see them and they really need these services,” he said.
There are 40 other similar hospital-based intervention programs across the country. By introducing the services earlier, the team at Yale-New Haven Hospital said they are saving lives before someone walks into the emergency room.
“I know that it’s good to have someone on your team to help you, on your side to help you with things,” Vega said. “It’s the darkest part of your life, and to have somebody assist you is special.”
Hospital-based violence intervention programs exist across the state and country. As more people recognize gun violence as a public health crisis, more hospitals are making this type of intervention a resource available to patients.