Breaking the Cycle of Violence

A new program will help trauma patients stay safe.

From left: Lisa A. Falcon, MSN, RN, TCRN, NE-BC, Director, Trauma & Injury Prevention; Elaine Hewins, CSW, DVS, Community Intervention Manager—Hospital Violence Intervention Program; Diana Starace, Injury Prevention Coordinator, Level 1 Trauma Center; Mariam Merced, Director of Community Health Promotions

In January 2020, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) New Brunswick was one of nine hospitals in New Jersey to receive a grant from the Attorney General to establish a hospital-based violence intervention program (HVIP).

“There’s been an increase in gunshot victims and violence in general in the community,” says Elaine Hewins, CSW, DVS, Community Intervention Manager—Hospital Violence Intervention Program.

The program’s premise is that although hospitals can effectively treat patients for their injuries, appropriate medical care doesn’t prevent reinjury. If a violence intervention specialist can provide services to patients while they’re hospitalized, he or she might be able to stop the cycle of violence.

“It’s an important moment, because patients may be more receptive to making changes in their lives when they’re being treated for an injury,” says Hewins.

Reducing Reinjury

Studies show that hospital-based programs are effective in reducing reinjury. In a study of 188 youths and young adults who were violently injured in Chicago, those who received HVIP services were significantly less likely to report being a victim of violence during the six months after their hospitalization.

A trial in Baltimore showed similar results. HVIP programs not only help prevent reinjury, but they can also save lives and reduce hospital expenses.

The RWJUH program, which launched in November, serves adults ages 18 to 40. The hospital has hired a multidisciplinary team of social workers, clinical nurses, violence intervention specialists, and licensed counselors. The providers have received intensive training in trauma-informed care.

“The services will begin in the hospital,” says Lisa A. Falcon, MSN, RN, TCRN, NE-BC, Director, Trauma & Injury Prevention. “If a victim agrees to enroll in the program, we’ll provide case management and mental health counseling for six to 12 months.”

Case managers connect patients with medical providers, housing, and job training. “They will strengthen the patients’ safety net,” says Falcon.

In one HVIP program, a patient who was going to be released from the hospital was living in his car and had no insurance. He needed medical supplies to keep his wound clean. The program’s staff members helped him enroll in Medicaid and bought gauze for him.

“They empowered him to care for himself,” says Hewins.

Helping patients like this man can have a ripple effect on the person’s family and, ultimately, the community.

“This program is inspiring,” says Falcon. “It gives me hope that we can make a positive impact on the community and patients’ lives.”

RWJUH will track the patients who receive HVIP services.

“There’s no single agency that serves victims of violent crimes, so I feel energized to be able to help this underserved population,” says Hewins.

For more information about the hospital-based violence intervention program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, call (732) 532.6202.