Trying to figure out why two people, raised under similar circumstances, end up in vastly different situations — one getting shot, say, and one not — is a goal of a new collaboration involving two Omaha academic health centers and a community group.
The effort enlists Creighton University Medical Center, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Impact One, a gang-intervention group that also works to find jobs for hundreds of at-risk youths.
It will add a research component to the work Impact One crews have been doing in the emergency rooms at Creighton and the Nebraska Medical Center, the city's two trauma centers.
Impact One “violence interrupters” head for the hospital as soon as they hear about a major shooting, which often is before the emergency room staff knows what's coming.
When team members arrive, they help calm the victim's relatives and discourage them from retaliating.
The effort announced Monday, funded in part by $72,000 raised through the Violence Prevention Fund, formalizes the group's relationship with the two hospitals and expands upon it to get at the roots of the city's violence problem.
“Young people fall in our streets every day,” said Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of the UNMC College of Public Health. “They are human beings with tremendous potential.”
Unless researchers spend time studying what led to the violent acts that injure these people, he said, “success will be limited.”
In 2010, officials said, the Nebraska Medical Center treated 114 people with gun-related injuries. Nearly one-third of those people were 18 or younger. Creighton admitted and discharged 106 patients with gun-related injuries last year.
Impact One members follow up with shooting victims and their families and try to plug them into social service programs or other resources that can help them avoid becoming a repeat victim of violence.
“The best predictor of future violence is past violence,” said Dr. Bob Muelleman, the medical director of the Nebraska Medical Center's emergency department.
As part of this new effort, Impact One workers will ask willing participants about their upbringing and share that information with researchers.
Researchers then will identify people with similar backgrounds from among those who come to the hospitals for treatment of injuries not related to urban violence. The researchers will look at how that control group has been able to avoid gun or gang violence and identify risk factors and help develop intervention strategies. Those strategies can be used by schools, juvenile justice agencies and others to help stop violent behavior before it starts.
“This is very complex,” El-Mohandes said. The goal of the effort, he said, is to “understand what works and what doesn't work.”
The Violence Prevention Fund, administered by the Omaha Community Foundation, was established in 2010 by Brad Ashford and Brenda Council, both state senators from Omaha, and civic leader Jane Rogers.
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