The trauma unit at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in D.C. is one of the busiest in the region, with about 600 patients who survive violent injuries every year. For some people, the hospital is a blessing in more ways than you might think.
The Northwest D.C. hospital runs the Community Violence Intervention Program, aiming to break the cycle of violence the moment someone lands in the emergency room.
The unique program offers ongoing support for survivors of violence and helps them find resources in education, employment, physical therapy and more.
“We really want to take that therapeutic opportunity to say, ‘We have some resources to help you overcome this, to look forward to the future, to start to set your own goals about what you want and use this period of time and reexamination to set a trajectory toward better health,’” said Dr. Erin Hall, the trauma surgeon who heads the program.
Hall and others help violence survivors heal physical and hidden wounds, and provide support in the hope of reducing the number of repeat visitors to the hospital. Many of the program’s case managers and social workers have been touched by violence themselves and can relate to patients.
Many shooting victims go home with a bullet or bullet fragments still lodged in their bodies. That can contribute to emotional wounds that run deep, Hall said.
“It's a marker of the worst day of my life. It's the marker of pain and suffering and probably a whole constellation of unfortunate circumstances and terrible, terrible happenings. And it's physically inside you as a reminder,” she said.
The program follows up with patients for six months and often receives happy updates.
“I love a picture of somebody getting their GED or somebody getting their commercial driver's license,” Hall said. “We're really making changes in people's lives.”
The program is funded through the D.C. Office of Victims Services and Justice Grants, the Maryland Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the National Crime Victim's Legal Institute, through the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C.