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Serious Medicine. Extraordinary Care.

Academic Medical Centers to Use Violence Prevention Fund Grant in Gang Violence Intervention Partnership

Creighton University Medical Center, The Nebraska Medical Center, and UNMC to work with Impact One to reduce and prevent violence

Hundreds of people are injured in incidents of gun violence in Omaha each year.

The city's academic health centers, Creighton University Medical Center, The Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) are optimistic about a new partnership with Impact One, a community-based organization helping Omaha residents with gang intervention and prevention as well as job training.

This $100,000 project is made possible through a partnership between the Violence Reduction Fund, UNMC's College of Public Health, The Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University Medical Center. The fund was established in 2010 by Omaha State Senators Brad Ashford and Brenda Council along with civic leader Jane Rogers. The fund is administered by the Omaha Community Foundation.

A need in the community

In the past society has used a criminal justice approach to dealing with gun violence. This new partnership is focused on treating community violence not only as a criminal issue, but as a public health issue. In 2010, The Nebraska Medical Center alone treated 114 cases of gun-related injuries. Nearly one-third of those people were 18 or younger. Creighton University Medical Center admitted and discharged 106 patients with gun-related injuries during 2010.

A public health approach treats community violence like a disease. It takes into account the vector (weapon), host (victim) and environment (neighborhoods). Based on data, interventions are developed, and results are measured. Adjustments are made to the interventions as the results indicate. This approach has been successful in other communities that are addressing the youth violence issue.

"We started the Violence Reduction Fund to support efforts underway to intervene to prevent retaliatory violence in our community and to promote development of evidence-based practices that will stop future violence," said Sen. Ashford. "This partnership meets these goals."

How it will work

The first places where the partnership will be put to work will be in the emergency departments of Omaha's two comprehensive trauma centers, The Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University Medical Center.

When victims of violence arrive at either hospital, Impact One may be notified. The organization may then dispatch "violence interrupters" who will intervene to work closely with the victim's family and friends.

In some cases, the tension that led up to the shooting or that often comes as a result of the shooting follow the victim to the hospital. Impact One's interrupters will work with everyone involved to provide alternatives to violence and make efforts to remove the tension from the hospital environment.

"Our goal is to help at-risk youth and gang members to become contributing members of society," said Jannette Taylor, executive director of Impact One. "A big part of that is intervening in gang violence. We're very optimistic that this partnership will help prevent retaliation and keep the peace in the hospitals and in the community."

Each Impact One staff member will attend an orientation session at each institution to help familiarize themselves with the hospitals and their protocols. Each member will also be aware of federal patient privacy laws.

"We know the staff of Impact One has deep ties to the community; those ties will be tremendously important in these situations," said Robert Muelleman, MD, medical director of the emergency department at The Nebraska Medical Center. "While those of us in the hospitals are working to treat the patient's injuries, Impact One will have the background and community access to assist with family and friends."

"As partners in trauma care we have the highest amount of emergency room visits in Omaha metro area. It is a natural fit to work together as well to address this important issue," said Gary Honts, President and CEO of Creighton University Medical Center. "Through our front line interactions with youth and violence we have the opportunity to make a positive impact to help to reduce the amount of violence in our community. We are proud to be a partner in addressing this very serious issue spearheaded by Senators Ashford and Council."

Reducing violence through research

The second part of this project will involve detailed research by experts at UNMC. The project will involve the evaluation of risk factors impacting violence in Omaha. Identification of the risk factors is critical to the development of intervention strategies that will be used by schools, juvenile justice agencies, and Health and Human Services to help stop violent behavior before it starts.

"By conducting in-depth evaluation of risk factors which contribute to violence, we will be able to develop community-specific and data-driven interventions," said Lina Lander, ScD, assistant professor of epidemiology in the UNMC College of Public Health.

All organizations involved with this partnership know that it alone will not be enough to break the cycle of violence. However, all are in agreement that something new must be tried. All involved hope this partnership will be an important part of a wider community commitment to reducing violence, inspiring hope and saving lives.