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HVIP KerbyServices have launched for a violence intervention pilot program to support survivors of gun violence who are cared for by the trauma service at UAB Hospital.

The year-long pilot program Violence Intervention and Prevention Partners, or VIP2, provides violence intervention specialists who assist in the delivery of case management services, including meeting with survivors of gun violence, providing connections to social, medical and mental health services and monitoring survivors’ progress over time.

The service provider, Offender Alumni Association (OAA), received a $1.1 million grant in 2022 awarded through the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) Public Health Advised Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. The City of Birmingham has committed $2.1 million for years two and three of the program.

UAB Hospital is the pilot facility for the program. The UAB Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery identifies and refers consenting patients to VIP2. Patients who are Jefferson County residents between the ages of 19-39 and who have survived a non-self-inflicted gunshot injury engage with violence intervention specialists while still in the hospital. Specialists coordinate with the outpatient clinical team for follow-up once the patient is discharged.

The objectives of the HVIP are to reduce subsequent acts of violence involving the clients, improve client health outcomes and enhance client educational attainment, employability and employment status.

Jeffrey Kerby, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, Director of the UAB Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery and Chair of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, emphasizes that gun violence is a national public health issue, with firearm injury now the number one cause of death for Americans from age one to 25.

Last year UAB’s trauma service cared for 1,300 victims of firearm-related injury – a fourfold increase since 2010.

“My colleagues in trauma care across the country are searching for ways to break the cycle of violence and reduce the impact of gun violence on our communities,” Kerby said.

Repeat injury is a concern for violent injury survivors: studies estimate that in urban settings, up to 41 percent of patients treated for violent injury are re-injured within five years. One survey of victims of violence at five-year follow-up found that 20 percent of patients treated for violent injury had died.

There are more than 30 hospital-based violence intervention programs in the United States. Studies have shown that programs of this type are successful in reducing the number of repeat injuries. The largest such study in Chicago found that more than 20 percent of victims of gun violence had a repeat injury within six months, against only eight percent of those who had undergone an intervention program.

Kerby says that this program has the potential to be a “difference-maker” by meeting patients at the bedside with counseling and intervention provided by trained specialists.

“While this is not a total solution to the epidemic of firearm injury in our community, it is a vital component of an overall community violence intervention strategy, and we are excited to be a part of it,” Kerby said.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin says the VIP2 program is one tool in the city’s toolbox for addressing violent crime and reducing gun violence.

“The city has established multiple programs in the past year to focus on prevention and reentry as well as enforcement. VIP2 is a vital part of this strategy,” Woodfin said. “I am appreciative of the services OAA will provide to gunshot survivors in an effort to reduce acts of violence.”

Deborah Daniels, the co-founder and executive director of OAA, says the vision of the OAA has always been to reduce crime and restore communities. “We realize that violence never has a winner and that it never affects one person, but it destroys families and communities,” Daniels said. “VIP2 is designed to demonstrate that through unity we can address this public health crisis.”

Mark Wilson, M.D., Jefferson County Health Officer, calls violence an “extremely complex and stubborn problem.”

“We made it a priority to find a way to help address it,” Wilson said. “We are hopeful that VIP2 will be an important part of the solution.”

JCDH sought assistance from the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention to assist stakeholders with planning the program.

VIP2 will include data collection and evaluation to determine how well objectives are being met.