CHICAGO — In the absence of a Level I adult trauma center on Chicago's notoriously dangerous South Side, many local victims of gun violence go to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, over 10 miles away in the city's busy downtown. Northwestern, which is often overrun by these patients, is now looking for partners in the community to curb violence and counsel victims and survivors of shootings.
“Population health is really looking at other assets in communities that affect health outcomes. We can provide top notch medical care, but what are some of those other things that impact health indicators?” said Posh Charles, Northwestern Medicine's vice president of community affairs.
Hoping to reach residents who are often hesitant to seek out professional counseling, Northwestern has partnered with University of Chicago Medicine, which only has a level I pediatric trauma center on its south side campus, to back a program that enlists those who often are sounding boards for the community. Pastors in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood are being trained by a group of Israeli trauma counselors who, having treated victims of terror and war, say gun violence victims are experiencing much of the same psychological effects.
For over five weeks, the pastors were trained by members of Natal, a Tel Aviv-based not-for-profit that offers in-person therapy, as well as a helpline, for victims or military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The organization believes trauma represents “invisible wounds” in people, said Orly Gal, the program's executive director.
The program, called The Urban Resilience Network, or TURN Center, offers a critical bridge to mental health services in a community where unaddressed emotional trauma can perpetuate violence. TURN will rope in perpetrators, victims' families and witnesses to violence. “We understand that when the trauma is happening, it's affecting everyone,” Gal said.
Officials at Northwestern and UChicago say programs like TURN help them boost the overall physical and mental wellbeing of communities they serve. It brings services to the patients' doorstep or church, Charles said.
Seeking mental health services is stigmatized in some cultures.