PHILADELPHIA— The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) awarded over $5 million in grants to three community violence prevention and intervention programs across Penn Medicine. The Penn Medicine programs not only aim to reduce and prevent community violence, but also address the lasting impacts of violence on victims, such as treating their mental health, and helping them utilize social service agencies.
Record levels of violent crime in Philadelphia for the past three years served as a call to action for many groups across the state to not only reduce violence, but heal the communities impacted by it the most. There were 1,791 non-fatal shootings in Philadelphia in 2022, on par with 1,831 in 2021, and 1,812 in 2020. The PCCD grants were part of a $100M investment in 127 projects across the state to address this crisis.
At Penn Medicine, Bernadette Hohl, PhD, a Senior Research Investigator, and Sara Solomon, MPH, RD, Deputy Director, both with the Penn Injury Science Center, will use grant funds to expand and enhance The School District of Philadelphia’s Safe Path to School Program. The goal of this program is to increase community safety by providing a positive, trusted adult presence for students as they travel to and from school and connecting this network of adults with existing violence intervention efforts. Through this grant, PISC will partner with local community organizations to expand to more area schools, and provide training for trauma informed care and violence prevention, access to referral programs, and conduct regular meetings with local violence intervention programs.
In an effort to provide lasting support for victims of violent crime, the Penn Trauma Violence Recovery Program (PTVRP), led by Elinore Kaufman, MD, MSHP, an assistant professor of Trauma Surgery, will used the grant to hire three additional Violence Intervention Specialists, who provide emotional support to survivors of violent injuries after they are discharged from the hospital, as well as serve as a bridge to the community and social services agencies throughout the city. Since its launch in 2021 with just a single violence intervention specialist, the PTVRP has met 233 patients for bedside counseling, enrolled 69 patients in the program, and made 102 referrals to community services and resources. The grant will also help provide dedicated mental health care providers for patients, both before and after hospital discharge, which has been a major hurdle for patients, as providers often have long wait times.
Sandra Capaldi, PsyD, and Lily Brown, PhD, both assistant professors of Psychology in Psychiatry, will also address the lasting impacts of community violence, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and related depression, anxiety, and anger, through the creation of the Prolonged Exposure to Address Community Violence (PEACE) Project. Prolonged exposure is a highly efficacious treatment for chronic PTSD that can result from exposure to violence. Prolonged exposure has also been proven to instill confidence in patients, improve aspects of daily functioning, increase the patient’s ability to cope with courage when facing stress, and improve their ability to discriminate safe and unsafe situations. The PEACE Project will be a coalition of 60 providers at community health centers across Philadelphia who are trained to respond to the mental health needs of individuals who experience community violence.
More information about PCCD's efforts to address gun violence can be found at www.pccd.pa.gov.
For more information on Penn Medicine’s community violence intervention efforts, visit: www.penninjuryscience.org/outreach/community-violence-intervention-hub/
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