While research shows that more than 45% of severely wounded victims of violence will be reinjured and 75% will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, one program is turning the tide for Chicago youth.  Healing Hurt People-Chicago (HHP-C) is showing promising effects in reducing re-injury and traumatic symptoms for young gunshot and stabbing victims. Established in Philadelphia in 2008, the program replication launched at Stroger and Comer Children’s Hospitals with full funding from Get IN Chicago in 2014.  Since the start of the pilot, 87% of youth who completed six months of HHP-C have avoided criminal justice involvement and 89% have reduced their re-injury rates.  Furthermore, 98% have not retaliated for the injuries that brought them to the hospital.

“Healing Hurt People is exactly the kind of program we wanted to bring to Chicago – it shares our public health approach to violence prevention,” said Dr. Toni Irving, Executive Director of Get IN Chicago. “Initiating contact directly in hospital trauma centers means this program can reach acutely high-risk youth who need it and reach them at the right moment. We’re pleased to see its success to date and are grateful for the corporate civic leadership that gave us the opportunity to help launch it here.”

Support staff from HHP-C engage victims of violent injury directly at the hospital and offer therapeutic services (Photo: Chicago Tribune)

The innovative HHP-C model seizes upon what researchers call ‘the golden hour’: the time immediately after violent injury when a patient’s thoughts vacillate between retaliation or changing their course.  HHP-C uses that moment to engage young patients and encourage their participation in the full program, which includes Intensive Case Management, home visits, peer support groups, trauma recovery services, and more.

“Without Get IN Chicago’s funding, we wouldn’t be doing anything; it really enabled us to start serving kids,” said Rev. Carol Reese, Program Director for HHP-C. “But their support has also allowed us to serve youth in a robust way.”

Like all programs receiving our support, Get IN Chicago has provided technical assistance to benefit operations, strategies, and measurement.  HHP-C has successfully increased enrollment in their therapy groups and determined and set minimum dosage thresholds.

“I think comprehensive engagement is a key component contributing to our success,” shared Reese. “With the Intensive Case Management model, our team visits youth in their homes, sees them in the community, attends court with them, and interacts with their Probation officers, teachers, and parents. The youth who engage with our staff and their peer support groups are the ones who show the most progress.”

Get IN Chicago Program Officer Crystal Jackson also pointed to the HHP-C staff’s ability to recognize and respond to the needs of their youth population. “The HHP-C teams have found innovative ways to incorporate opportunities for creative expression with partners like Project FIRE,” she said. “They have also done an excellent job of understanding what kind of staff members can best engage and support these youth.”

Partnerships with organizations like Project FIRE, above, have opened opportunities for creative expression for youth in the HHP-C program. (Photo courtesy of Healing Hurt People-Chicago)

Recently, HHP-C secured external funding to expand efforts, including two clinical supervisors to provide full-time support and reduce psychotherapy case loads.  Additionally, in a new position developed to support youth development and recruitment, four recent program graduates have progressed to serve as peer facilitators.

“The presence of peer facilitators helps our new, younger participants see that they too can heal and grow – that there is hope,” said Reese. “We have already seen examples of peer facilitators successfully engaging youth in the hospital that we would have been otherwise unable to reach.”

Reese has been encouraged by how both program sites have embraced HHP-C in their operations. Her team now receives consistent, systemic referrals from hospital personnel, and she has also seen increases in awareness and understanding of youth trauma by emergency room responders.  Currently, she is currently working on funding to expand HHP-C to additional sites and age groups. We look forward to the expanded impact of Healing Hurt People’s public health approach reaching even more acutely high-risk youth.

“It’s good to have partners who ask the hard questions.  It’s good to have partners with whom we can have these conversations and do it in a productive way,” said Reese. “The questions that Get IN Chicago has asked about our outcomes and processes have really allowed us to be more thoughtful about our work and improve how we advocate for our program.”