NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi is fighting youth violence in the Bronx. The program, Stand Up to Violence (SUV), was started last July by PAGNY’s Dr. Noè Romo, a pediatrician who serves as SUV’s Medical Director. The program includes a team of 10 professionals, all PAGNY employees, who work together to reduce violence in Bronx communities.
The SUV program receives state funding from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, and is supported by State Senator Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), who secured its funding.
The program is based on the idea that violence is a disease, and should be treated with methods and strategies used to fight diseases. It is modeled after a Chicago-based program called “Cure Violence” that has been replicated around the world due to its success in reducing killings and violence in at-risk neighborhoods. The core of the program uses what are called “credible messengers” from the community to reach out to those who are most likely to be involved in violent behavior. These “credible messengers” are members of the SUV staff who use their past experiences to mediate conflict, and mentor high-risk youths.
“Stand Up to Violence uses an innovative approach to prevent gun violence,” said Erika Mendelsohn, SUV program director and Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). “I’ve seen first-hand how this program can prevent retaliatory shootings, and provide much needed guidance and support for high-risk individuals. Unlike your typical healthcare worker, SUV Outreach Workers are able to use their own experiences to connect with and engage patients on a much deeper level. It’s amazing to see how relaxed and open many of the patients become when they start speaking to one of our Outreach Workers. This connection is the basis for ongoing follow-up services with the focus on preventing high-risk behavior and involvement in another violent incident.”
SUV is the first hospital-based model of the Cure Violence program. NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi staff from the Adult and Pediatric Trauma Team, Emergency Department, Family Practice & Primary Care and Department of Social Work is involved in referring high-risk patients, and conducting specialized medical and psychosocial practice sessions. The program’s unique connection to the hospital allows SUV staff to access high-risk young people immediately after a violent incident. This “golden hour”—when high-risk youths are at their most vulnerable—is a critical time to engage them, and connect them with long-term follow-up services. The program also consists of a specialized clinic where individuals under the age of twenty-four admitted for violent trauma can follow up. This clinic is staffed by Erika Mendelsohn LMSW, the program director, one of the credible messengers acting as a hospital responder, and Dr. Romo. “The SUV program is unique because we are able to intervene both at the individual and community level” said Dr. Romo. “In the hospital we work to prevent retaliation by patient victims and improve their physical and mental health outcomes, while out in the community we try to change social norms through different community events and mentorship.”
The program could not exist without the direct involvement of hospital staff and PAGNY leadership, which includes Dr. John McNelis, Chief of Surgery, and Dr. William B. Caspe, Chief of Pediatrics. Their shared vision and genuine belief in the validity of the program helped us all work together to bring it to fruition. Special kudos to HHC, John Doyle for navigating the legislative process, HHC Sandra Chaiken, LCSW, Director of Social Work at NBHN for overseeing the program operation, and Pastor J. Gooding for his remarkable community outreach. PAGNY recognizes and greatly appreciates the NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi Auxiliary, Inc., for serving as fiscal agent.
PAGNY SUV team at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi with Dr. Noè Romo, Medical Director(second row, second from right) and Erika Mendelsohn, LSMW, Program Director (second row, third from right)