Initiative focuses on trauma of gun violence

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A new one-stop shop at the Jordan Health Center will provide comprehensive services for victims of gun violence. (Photo: RIT/Jordan Health)

A new initiative that addresses the trauma of gun violence is expected to grow into a national model. The effort is led by the Center for Public Safety Initiatives at Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Spearheaded by Irshad Altheimer, associate professor and director of CPSI, and Janelle Duda-Banwar, assistant research professor, the program supports a new, one-stop shop for comprehensive services for victims of gun violence. A $225,000 grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation will help make this a reality.

Jordan Health will serve as the central hub and is working with the United Way Systems Integration Project to coordinate services through other community partners, including Pathways to Peace, Rochester SNUG, Rise Up Rochester, Advance Peace, Ubuntu Village Works, and the Rochester mayor’s office, officials say. The goal is to provide victims with the support they need to avoid further violence and stabilize their lives. 

“We’re hoping this can be a national model for helping victims deal with the trauma after they get medical care,” Altheimer says. “A lot of times they get patched up really well, but they are being released without a safety plan or anyone dealing with their trauma.

“For some people law enforcement is not an option for a lot of different reasons, which means we have to think about alternative organizations who can engage them. We hope that by dealing with the trauma, we can lower the victimization and retaliation that often happens after a shooting.”

The number of annual homicides in Rochester has jumped in the last two years—to 52 in 2020 and 81 in 2021. A CPSI report found that in 2021, Rochester had 38.4 homicides per 100,000 people—fifth highest of the 24 cities tracked by its annual report. That rate was higher than in cities often associated with high crime like New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Compton, Calif., as well as other upstate cities such as Buffalo and Syracuse.

The new initiative builds on research from CPSI and the Community Engagement to Reduce Victimization project. Researchers with the CERV project conducted customer journey mapping interviews with victims of violence in Rochester. Their research found that shooting victims are often discharged from the hospital in less than four hours and systemically shut out of follow-up services, officials say.

“We found that these individuals felt like they were not valued,” Duda-Banwar says. “They were not treated with dignity or respect, and the hospital wanted to get them out of there as quickly as possible. Not one of the people we interviewed received follow-up medical care services and many weren’t connected to any services at all. Based on our customer journey maps and our own observations, the systems needed to work together better.”

The researchers also note that the arrest rate for nonfatal shootings in Rochester over the two decades was roughly 20 percent. While the rate needs to increase and there has to be a law enforcement component to address the problem, coordinated services offered through a trusted community partner like Jordan Health can help tackle the issue from a different perspective, the researchers say.

“Jordan Health is in a unique position to participate with RIT in this collaboration,” says Kara Fredette-Benitez, Jordan Health’s director of care coordination. “Jordan Health has seven locations that span across the city of Rochester. Many of our patients and staff live in areas of Rochester that are affected by violence. This partnership enables Jordan Health the opportunity to be an active part of the solution while still maintaining our role, providing quality health care and care coordination services to the Rochester community.”

The program is expected to become fully operational by the end of summer.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

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