Community violence is a problem for public health. It leads to injury and, in some cases, death. It also affects a community’s sense of security. This unease, in turn, makes a community less attractive to businesses and lowers the value of homes. The Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) is dedicated to reducing community violence. This initiative is housed at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. VPI has two main programs—a Homicide Review and “Gunshot Reoccurring Injury Prevention Services,” or GRIPS.
The Homicide Review has been in place since 2012. It brings together people from law enforcement, social services and the community to discuss every homicide in Allegheny County. Stakeholders meet monthly to review homicides, examine causes and make recommendations to prevent the next homicide. In 2015, there were 114 homicides in Allegheny County. The Homicide Review group looked at multiple parts of each homicide. The review includes the time and place, criminal histories and mental health of the people involved. The group also examines broader areas like housing, neighborhood loyalties and the influence of social media. Richard Garland, MSW, assistant professor of behavioral and community health sciences at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, convenes the review with Gina Brooks, project coordinator for the Homicide Review, and notes, “The gang problem doesn’t exist as much as it did in the 90s. Now we see cliques and crews. There is also more movement between city and suburban communities, leading to new patterns of homicide.”
The second initiative is GRIPS. Each year hospital trauma centers in Allegheny County treat about 250 survivors of firearm injuries. These survivors are at risk for further violence. Since 2014, GRIPS outreach workers have met survivors in local hospitals. They offer case management and social support as part of a research project. The workers consider hospitalization for violent injury a “teachable moment.” Survivors can be motivated to pursue employment, medical treatment, housing and other goals important to them. As part of the research, GRIPS is examining whether this support will lower the risk of further violence.
VPI is committed to research and efforts to lower community violence in our neighborhoods. More information about the organization can be found here: http://www.healthequity.pitt.edu/
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