A doctor holds the hand of a patient.
VCU Health will help implement violence intervention models at peer institutions over the next two years as part of a grant-funded initiative by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to improve public safety and health outcomes for victims of violence in high-need communities. (Getty Images)

VCU Health to help establish Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs across Virginia

The VCU Trauma Center’s Injury and Violence Prevention Program will advise six other hospitals as part of a grant-funded initiative to reduce community violence.

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VCU Health is one of seven hospital teams selected to participate in a Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services grant-funded initiative to improve public safety and health outcomes for victims of violence in high-need communities. 

As the only participant that has operated a comprehensive injury and violence prevention program in the commonwealth for the past 12 years, VCU Health will help initiate sustainable violence prevention models at peer institutions over the next two years. These include two Bon Secours Richmond Health System hospitals, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, Riverside Regional Medical Center, Sentara Careplex and Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

“As a comprehensive Level I trauma center, we are committed to preventing injuries, not just treating them,” said Michel Aboutanos, M.D., who serves as director of VCU’s Trauma Center and its related Injury and Violence Prevention Program. “Our program is evidence-based and follows a recognized national model that is based on hospitals and communities working together to reduce violence. We have the tools, resources and expertise to go beyond clinical care for our patients and play a larger role in fixing the underlying problem.”

“We have helped survivors of serious violence through our community outreach programs for over a decade,” said Amy Vincent, who serves as assistant director of VCU’s Injury and Violence Prevention Program. “Now we can extend our reach into communities even further by helping our partners start up their own violence intervention programs.” Support will include site visits, coaching calls, webinars and technical assistance, as well as hosting teams from each hospital for a full week of immersion at VCU Medical Center.

Virginia’s Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs collaborative will focus on serving patients who need treatment for gunshot wounds, stabbings or assault (known as community violence), as well as sexual and domestic violence. The grant was awarded to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association Foundation, which serves as grantor and will function as project coordinator for the initiative.

You may know that VCU Health is the region's only level I trauma center, but do you know what a level I trauma center actually does? Get to know our trauma center at a glance and learn more by visiting VCUHealth.org/Trauma

The Virginia model will build on the innovation of two VCU Health programs, Project EMPOWER and Bridging the Gap. 

Project EMPOWER provides intervention and prevention services to survivors of intimate partner, sexual and domestic violence. In 2019, Project EMPOWER served 557 VCU Health patients. Services ranged from supporting patients while physical evidence was collected, referring them to counseling services and accompanying them to court. Bridging the Gap, a program to prevent youth violence, served 96 patients harmed by intentional violence.

In addition to serving as an adviser, VCU Health is also a grant recipient. “The grant allows us to expand our Bridging the Gap program from a youth program to everyone who is admitted for violence-related injuries,” Vincent said. The grant will triple the number of caseworkers to provide intensive case management in the home and community for up to a year after hospital discharge. The caseworkers play a critical role in connecting members with appropriate resources such as housing, educational programs and mental health providers. 

“These programs can be life-changing and lifesaving. We are doing so much more than just responding to the medical needs of our patients,” Vincent said. “We are able to help them become a better version of themselves and live healthy and safe lives in their communities.”

In May 2019, Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam announced the award of $2.45 million in Victims of Crime Act grant funding to support implementation of the Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs collaborative at select Virginia hospitals. The grant is part of a funding package approved by the Criminal Justice Services Board of DCJS. The Virginia HVIP collaborative is supported by Award No.20-A4739VP18, awarded by the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Victim Services Grant Program, Department of Justice. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice nor its grant-making component.