RICHMOND, VA (VR) – June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month, and here in Virginia one of the many ways hospitals are helping lead efforts to enhance public health is through programs focused on meeting the needs of victims of community violence.
These programs are part of the Virginia Hospital-based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP) Collaborative, a VHHA Foundation-supported initiative that is now entering its fourth year of operation in the Commonwealth. So far, more than 2,895 patients have been served by participating HVIP hospitals. In addition to providing direct medical care to victims of community and intimate partner violence, these hospitals also educate patients about victim rights, engage in victim advocacy and support during emergency medical care, offer assistance in applying for public benefits, and provide access to crisis intervention services, emergency financial assistance, transportation assistance, and shelter or housing services. HVIP programs build on the ways hospitals already serve patients, including victims of community violence, through the use of dedicated staff trained to address the traumatic impacts of violence on patients, families, and communities. Since 2019, HVIP programs in Virginia have accounted for more than $29 million in health care cost avoidance associated with reduced readmission and re injury rates among patients who receive HVIP support services.
A grant award of $2.45 million from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services’ (DCJS) Victim Services Grant Program, through the U.S. Department of Justice, was provided in 2019 to support the initial implementation of the HVIP model at select Virginia hospitals. Since then, funding has enabled additional hospitals to start HVIP programs. This year, U.S. Senators
Mark Warner and Tim Kaine helped the VHHA Foundation secure $448,000 in funding in the federal omnibus spending bill to support three HVIP programs at Bon Secours, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, and VCU Health whose work focuses on curbing intimate partner violence (IPV). The federal spending bill also includes $996,000 to support VCU Health’s Bridging the Gap program, which is the first HVIP established in the Commonwealth.
Presently, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Riverside Regional Medical Center, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, and VCU Health have HVIP programs focused on addressing community violence. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “community violence happens between unrelated individuals, who may or may not know each other, generally outside the home. Examples include assaults or fights among groups, and shootings in public places, such as schools and on the streets. Research indicates that youth and young adults (ages 10-34), particularly those in communities of color, are disproportionately impacted.” The work of these programs, and their successes, are highlighted in two new episodes of VHHA’s Patients Come First podcast: One features Sentara Norfolk General Hospital Community Health Worker Holly Stevens discussing the work of the hospital’s Foresight HVIP, and another features VCU Health Peer Support Specialist Darrell Anderson, who survived an episode of community violence and now helps other patients during their recovery.
This year, National Gun Violence Awareness Month arrives in the wake of several recent tragic and deadly mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, at a church in Laguna Woods, CA, at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX, and on a hospital campus in Tulsa, OK. Newly released
CDC data shows that “firearm deaths continue to be a significant and growing public health problem in the United States” with firearms involved in 79 percent of homicides and 53 percent of suicides in 2020. The CDC also reports that the firearm homicide rate increased 35 percent from 2019-2020, which represents the highest such rate recorded in more than 25 years.
“Efforts by Virginia hospitals and health systems to make our communities healthier and safer take many forms, including the work of HVIP programs to decrease community violence and support victims of violence,” said VHHA President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “In a few short years, these programs are already yielding positive results for patients. We are optimistic that the benefits to Virginia will continue thanks in part to the funding support provided by congressional leaders like Senators Warner and Kaine.”
Added VHHA Foundation CEO Kelly Cannon: “Having seen the incredible impact that our HVIPs have already made in their communities, we are appreciative to continue to receive funding to support these programs and the hiring of additional community health workers to work directly with patients who have been impacted by community violence. This work is positively impacting lives today and will have a sustained benefit in Virginia communities for years to come.”
The Virginian Review has been serving Covington, Clifton Forge, Alleghany County and Bath County since 1914.