JAMAICA, Queens (WABC) -- Jamaica Hospital Medical Center is partnering with several local Cure Violence groups to launch an initiative to combat gun violence, the parties announced Monday.
As part of the collaboration with King of Kings, Life Camp, and Sheltering Arms Children and Family Services-Rock Safe Streets, the hospital will designate employees who will support the provision of anti-violence and violence interruption services by responding to referrals of traumas associated with gun violence.
These designated employees will also assist in coordinating the visitation of responders (individuals appointed by Cure Violence groups) with patients and loved ones, with their consent and as authorized by the law.
"We're in the hospital connecting with family who are angry, connecting with friends who are in pain," said Erica Ford, with Life Camp. "A lot of this is retaliation, interpersonal retaliation, so if we can stop the next shooting, we're able to saves lives."
The collaboration between the hospital and the organizations was made official at a formal signing ceremony Monday, during Gun Violence Awareness Month.
"This agreement is an important step in the right direction to address the crisis of gun violence in our community," Jamaica Hospital President and CEO Bruce Flanz said. "As a hospital that operates the busiest Level 1 Trauma Center in the city and cares for a disproportionally large number of gun violence patients, we know firsthand the impact and ripple effects it causes to victims, their loved ones, and communities."
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Elected official Congressman Gregory Meeks, a staunch advocate for gun violence prevention, joined Jamaica Hospital in commemorating the partnership.
"Those three organizations are knocking on doors, talking to people on the ground, and in places some of us can't get into," Meeks said.
The gun violence epidemic continues to grip our nation and local communities, and proponents say the need to address the issue has only become more urgent after the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde.
Locally, the urgency is resounding as the number of gun violence victims continues to climb at an alarming rate.
"Sometimes we're receiving patients who are incapacitated, comatose, and we don't know the full story outside of these doors," Jamaica Hospital Trauma Medical Director Dr. Katherine McKenzie said.
Gun violence has increased by 188% in the five boroughs -- and more specifically 190% in Queens -- from 2019 to 2020.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm violence is a serious public health problem.
About 124 people in the U.S. die each day from firearm-related injuries, and gun violence also affects the mental health of patients, their loved ones, and healthcare providers.
Studies also show that residents living in neighborhoods with high rates of gun violence are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders and other mental health illnesses.
The objective of the landmark agreement is for all involved to work together to prevent violence and assist in protecting the health of patients and community members.
Responders' duties will include conducting follow-up visits during the inpatient stay with identified hospital patients, upon a determination by Jamaica Hospital that the patient is stable.
Responders will also provide supportive services such as mediation, conflict resolution, and service referrals to assist in the prevention of re-injury to these patients or to prevent retaliation connected to gun violence incidents.
Additionally, Jamaica Hospital and Responders will work together to provide coordinated care and integrative support to victims of gun violence.
At Jamaica Hospital, the rise in gun violence became evident in 2020 after the initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials say the number of patients treated for gun violence-related incidents increased by 223% between 2019 and 2020.
The dramatic spike prompted the hospital's Trauma Division to create the Violence Elimination and Trauma Outreach (VETO) program.
"Observing the rise in gun violence in our community, the Trauma Division launched VETO, a hospital-based violence intervention program, in the spring of 2021," Dr. McKenzie said. "The VETO program works to identify victims of gun violence and provide comprehensive coordinated and integrative care to survivors. We are confident that our partnership with King of Kings, Life Camp, and the Sheltering Arms Children and Family Services- Rock Safe Streets program will expand on the outreach work being done in our community to address gun violence, a growing public health crisis."
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