Violence in our schools and communities takes a terrible toll on our youth but Community Violence Intervention programs like Bridging the Gap are making a real difference. (Check out Virginia Rules topic, Teens and Violence, for more on how Virginia law addresses this issue.)
Firearm use in violent crimes has been on the rise since 2020, and hospital trauma centers are now playing a vital role not only in saving the lives of young victims, but helping to keep them out of the ER in the future.
Bridging the Gap, a program developed by VCU Health in 2003, meets this need by providing community violence prevention services to Richmond area patients between the ages of 10-24 who were admitted for intentional injuries from firearms, stabbing, and assaults. Now the program is set to expand to other areas of Virginia.
The program was started by Dr. Michel Aboutanos, a surgeon and medical director of VCU Medical Center’s Level I trauma center, who was moved to act after losing young patients to repeated gun violence.
Bridging the Gap’s goal is to reduce the rate of re-injury by providing intensive case management services, starting at the bedside and continuing once patients are discharged by connecting them with community resources. Services may range from mental health support to conflict resolution skills to job search help.
The program has seen remarkable success — almost 2,000 patients have participated and research has shown that program participants reduce re-injury rates by 76%. Bridging the Gap participants have also reduced their use of alchohol and drugs by more than half.
Now a $5 million dollar state grant, administered by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association Foundation, will allow VCU to sustain their own program and provide technical assistance, training and support to help develop similar programs in vulnerable communities throughout Virginia.
Communities slated to develop their own programs through the grant include Newport News, Roanoke, Petersburg, and Norfolk.
For more information about the Bridging the Gap program, visit VCU Health »