Violence Intervention Program Saves Lives

Violence and criminal activity remains a major threat to public health, disproportionately affecting racial minorities. Among African-American men, violence is a leading cause of injury, disability and death.

Consequently, homicide remains the leading cause of death among African-American males under 24 and the second-leading cause of death in Hispanics. For these reasons, violence prevention is a strategic community health priority for the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).

The R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center (STC) is the primary adult resource center for trauma in Maryland. The STC admitted nearly 8,000 patients in 2014. Approximately 20% of the admissions were due to violence. In 2014, there were 211 homicides in Baltimore, and 173 of those homicides were African-American males. The rate of violent re-injury at most trauma centers is estimated to be as high as 45%. One of the leading risk factors for violent injury is a history of prior violent injury.

In 1998, Dr. Carnell Cooper created the Violence Intervention Program (VIP), after repeatedly treating victims and perpetrators of violence admitted into the STC. The VIP is a hospital-based violence-intervention program (HBVIP) that assists victims of violent injuries. Victims receive immediate assessment at the bedside from a social worker and/or caseworker, who assists with linkage to necessary resources and social support. Reaching a victim of violence in the hospital setting after a life-threatening event has shown to be an opportune moment to engage in intervention (Cooper, 2006).

In light of the recent unrest that overtook Baltimore in April 2015, the VIP continues to play an active role with patients who are admitted to STC due to a violent injury. The program also strives to empower Baltimore residents to become change agents within their individual neighborhoods.

Dr. Cooper and others conducted an evaluation of the VIP between 1999–2001. The study was the first randomized, prospective evaluation of an HBVIP. The VIP enrolled 100 patients at the bedside during the study. The VIP demonstrated a decline in violent re-injury, recidivism, jail time, cost of incarceration and unemployment in the intervention group, compared to the non-intervention group. UMMC is proud to continue its work in the community with the VIP to address this strategic community priority.