Drexel’s Healing Hurt People received a national award from the Office of Crime Victims Friday for its work toward making victims of violent crime less likely to be injured again.
Ted Corbin, MD, associate professor in Drexel’s College of Medicine and Dornsife School of Public Health, and John Rich, MD, professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health, were both on-hand to receive the Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services. Corbin serves as the medical director of Healing Hurt People and Rich is the director of Drexel’s Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice, which houses the program.
“When we see the improvement of the lives of the young people that we work with, that’s our reward,” Corbin said.
Corbin accepted the award on behalf of the program. It was established to “recognize a program, organization, or individual who has helped to expand the reach of victims’ rights and services,” according to the Office for Victims of Crime, which is housed in the Office of Justice Programs. The award is given out annually in a ceremony in Washington, DC, during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Healing Hurt People initially began only in Hahnemann University Hospital in 2007, but has since expanded to five different hospitals across Philadelphia and programs in both Chicago and Portland, Oregon. In that time, more than 1,800 young people have been served through the program.
Re-injury — and retaliation for an injury — after a person suffers violence is a particular problem when it comes to some areas that routinely experience cyclical violence. As a result, Healing Hurt People take an interdisciplinary intervention approach to those who have suffered a traumatic, violent injury.
“The program is designed to engage a young person at the time of their injury when we know they’re at the greatest risk for re-injury and retaliation but, most especially, the symptoms of trauma,” Rich said.
Members of the Healing Hurt People team seek out people between the ages of eight and 30 who come into emergency departments with traumatic injuries. This is a time described as “the golden hour,” in which victims make their decision of whether they want to change their life to avoid similar injuries — or death — in the future or to retaliate, unwittingly contributing to the violent cycle that likely brought them there.
Most hospitals are equipped or trained only to handle the physical injuries a person receives. Without support, victims are more likely to go back into situations where they’re more likely to choose retaliation and/or become re-injured.
Healing Hurt People strives to intervene during this “golden hour” and provide services that make avoiding the situations that contribute to cyclical violence easier.
“The program is designed to treat the mental health consequences of violence and to help young people plug into supports: Medical, behavioral, economic, housing, whatever the needs are,” Rich said.
Staff from the program “serve as navigators for the client to the various support services, providing transportation when necessary, accompanying youth to appointments and providing much-needed support and mentoring,” according to the program’s website. “Weekly case reviews are conducted with the interdisciplinary team to ensure function of the program and management of challenging issues.”
Through all of this, Healing Hurt People closes gaps in care — the gaps that exist beyond physical aspects of violent injuries — that are often beyond the scope of emergency departments. And through that work, the widening program continues to chip away at cyclical violence.
“Our patients are really traumatized,” Corbin said. “We see the symptoms do decrease when they interact with our community intervention specialists and partake in some of the program activities.”
“The impact of Healing Hurt People has changed the conversation about violence among young people in health settings,” Rich added.