Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Evaluating the Effectiveness of a New Hospital-Based Program

Posted April 21, 2017, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

In emergency rooms across the country, victims of intentional injury — such as wounds from guns or knives — often report thinking about retaliating or making significant life changes. Now, a hospital-based violence intervention program, called Healing Hurt People (HHP), is using this pivotal moment to provide medical services and identify resources in areas such as emotional support, substance abuse treatment and job training.

The program has emerged as a promising strategy for interrupting a stubborn cycle of violence, which is why the Foundation is supporting a multiyear evaluation to assess its effectiveness.

HHP currently operates in five Philadelphia trauma centers that serve some of the city’s lowest-income and highest-crime neighborhoods. The evaluation now underway focuses on three of these centers and aims to assess HHP’s impact on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), re-injury, retaliation and recidivism. Participating patients are all young adults, ages 18 to 24, who have suffered a violent injury. Nearly all of these individuals are African American or Latino.

Preliminary findings indicate that the program is working. So far, HHP participants also have zero arrests and re-injuries on record. In addition, these participants “have a significant decrease in PTSD symptoms compared with the control group,” according to Dr. Ted Corbin, director of HHP and an associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Drexel University’s College of Medicine. “I’m hoping this evidence will show that hospital-based violence intervention programs are important to have — particularly in hospitals that are serving an impoverished, urban population.”

Suzanne Barnard, director of Casey’s Evidence-Based Practice Group, calls HHP “an innovative strategy for bringing together a variety of partners — including hospitals and health systems — and for preventing greater medical costs down the road.” She also commends HHP for serving a population of young adults that disproportionately experiences and commits violent injuries. “The idea is to interrupt the cycle of violence and reduce the odds that young people will enter the criminal justice system,” says Barnard.

Final results of the HHP evaluation are due at the end of 2017. Drexel University’s College of Medicine and School of Public Health will develop and submit summaries of the results for national, state and local forums.

Learn more about Casey’s work to build evidence

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