Effects of Gun Violence

Brady Applauds the Herculean Effort of Violence Recovery Specialists In Chicago


Originally from Chicago Tribune-

Christine Goggins is one of nine violence recovery specialists at University of Chicago Medicine, who, like a doctor or nurse, responds immediately to trauma patients and their families.

Goggins' care is different, if also complicated and necessary. While the medical team tends to the physical wounds, Goggins offers immediate emotional support in traumatic moments, and she also tries to answer a question that some say isn’t asked nearly enough in Chicago: What other treatment and help do victims of violence need?

Goggins’ first job is, as she describes it, is to “hold space," for people in those first minutes after they’ve been shot or stabbed or beaten. Some don’t or can’t talk. But if they do, Goggins is there to listen about whatever they want to share, which is often the shock of what it feels like to be targeted for violence or, often, death.

Later, Goggins shifts to the second part of her mission. It is what she calls “finding justice” for her patients by trying to make sure they and their loved ones have what they need to feel safe, whether it is housing, mental health counseling, a job or even something as simple as food.

“Justice looks like having someone advocate for them and having someone really give them the resources they need to be a survivor," she said. "It gives them their control back, and I think when you seek justice that is what you really want. It is not ‘an eye for an eye’. It is, ‘I want somebody to care that this happened to me. I want some resources. I want to feel safe.’”

The Violence Recovery Program opened in 2018 to serve adult and pediatric trauma patients and their families at University of Chicago Medicine. The recovery program is part of an emerging field of hospital-based violence intervention programs that emphasize the urgent need to treat not only physical wounds of violence but also the emotional and mental trauma and social upheaval, such as loss of a job, that victims suffer.

The work is driven by research showing there are strong indicators that a person who suffers a violent injury is at risk to be hurt again. So what Goggins and the other specialists are trying to identify is what has put a patient at risk for injury in the first place and help them address it.

“The more we think about the act of violence as a health issue, the more we start to think about the factors, all of the factors, that are at the root of interpersonal violence,” said Mark Ohrtman, manager of the Violence Recovery Program and Goggins' supervisor.

There are immediate concerns to address, including whether the patient feels they are at risk of being targeted again. Housing is a huge requirement, both the need to immediately relocate people for safety or find a stable long-term living situation. People want help finding jobs too. Goggins provides links to services that can meet their needs, going as far as helping them fill out the necessary paperwork.

“If you don’t understand the ‘why,’ we are never going to get to a real solution,” she said. “The key to any type of change, reform, is understanding that culture. We have to get to those people, what leads them to committing violence?”

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