What happens to young men and women who suffer violent injuries after they leave the hospital?  Studies predict that within five years of injury, 45% percent of patients with penetrating traumas are reinjured.  20% are dead.

Since April 2015, the Healing Hurt People (HHP) program of Hektoen Institute for Medical Research at Cook County Hospital has used Get IN Chicago funding to break that cycle.  The grant supports trauma-informed, hospital-based services for shooting and stabbing victims between the ages of 13-18.

HHP takes advantage of the “teachable moment” that accompanies violent injury by providing its services at the hospital after victims are admitted.  Through the program, youth receive intensive case management, psycho-education, mentoring, and mental health care from licensed clinicians and therapists.  This support helps the young men and women reduce their chance of re-injury, retaliation, arrests – and increases their capacity to thrive.


Dr. Andrew Dennis, a surgeon in the Cook County hospital trauma unit, looks at the wound of a man who was shot in 2012 in Chicago, on May 16, 2013. Americans in violent neighborhoods are developing PTSD at rates similar to combat veterans. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images) – http://www.propublica.org/article/the-ptsd-crisis-thats-being-ignored-americans-wounded-in-their-own-neighbor

Most of all, the program makes a difference.  One staff member shared the following story:

“Recently, our boys group met to discuss Loss as part of the SELF (Safety, Emotions, Loss, Future) curriculum – typically a very difficult topic. While one of the group facilitators started setting up (and experiencing some difficulty engaging the group), a 14 year-old boy, Larry,* a smart, but sometimes disruptive participant, asked if he might teach the class. He was allowed to. 

“Larry opened the group with a question: ‘Who has ever been to a candlelight vigil?’ When the other boys answered, he wrote the names of the people lost on the white board up front. He continued asking questions – how old were the people who had died, how did they know them, writing down their answers. The more the group talked, the more everyone opened up.  Even the quietest kids, often reluctant to participate, opened up.

Through the course of conversation, many of the kids realized that they knew some of the same victims – that they had connections through these losses. In the end, the white board became a memorial to those lost to violence, with more than 20 names written on the board all killed by guns. It was a powerful experience for the boys to be able to talk about their losses and have others understand what they’ve witnessed and been through in their young lives. And it gave Larry a chance to be a leader within this group environment – something he may not often have a chance to be in his everyday life.” 

* not his real name.

In its first quarter of funding, HHP reached more than 80 young men and women with these group sessions, as well as intensive case management services and assessments to get them on track for the right treatment.  Their Get IN Chicago grant is currently set to continue through March 2016, and we look forward to supporting their work as they reach more youth with these invaluable services.