WOODLAWN — As another hot Chicago summer approaches, two South Side hospitals are joining forces in hopes of turning victims of violence into survivors.
Southland RISE (Resilience Initiative to Strengthen and Empower), a collaborative project by UChicago Medicine and Advocate Christ Medical Center, will take a holistic approach to treating victims of violence by providing ongoing support long after they’ve been discharged.
“I feel like a coach who looked up and realized that his players were all all-stars,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, who was on hand to formally announce Southland RISE’s launch at YWCA Laura Parks and Mildred Francis Center, 6600 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Tuesday. He was praising the people who came together to make the collaboration possible.
The project is part of Durbin’s Chicago HEAL initiative, which was launched in 2018 to persuade health care providers on the south and west sides to improve trauma recovery care.
Durbin talked about meeting with young men and women — some of them gang members — who shared their life stories.
“We have to acknowledge that something happened in their lives to move them in a different direction, and the question is, ‘Are they redeemable? Can we give them a new path and new opportunity?'” asked Durbin. “The answer is yes, if we know how to do it.”
Durbin was joined by Dr. Kenneth Polonsky, dean and executive director for medical affairs at the University of Chicago; Advocate Christ Medical Center President Matthew Primack; Brenda Battle, UChicago Medicine’s executive vice president of diversity and inclusion, and Loren Simmons, YWCA’s chief empowerment officer.
Half of the victims of violent crime discharged from the hospital usually return within five years, Durbin said.
He worked with 10 CEOs from area hospitals on a list of goals to reduce repeat hospital visits, laying the groundwork for Chicago HEAL. Taking a holistic, community-based approach to mitigate harm in the long term, Southland RISE helps victims move away from an area if it’s dangerous for them by assisting with relocation and transportation costs, housing, job placement and behavioral health support.
Southland RISE will embed itself in the community, working with schools, faith-based organizations and other groups to develop trauma-informed training in order to better serve the city — essentially educating people on what victims of violence face and the best practices when it comes to working with them. It also plans to provide small grants to South Side community organizations working to reduce violence in their neighborhoods.
“This collaborative allows us to convene together with all of our partners to streamline the process for access to the services we provide,” Battle said.
Southland RISE hopes to accomplish all of this within the next 18-24 months. They’re also planning a community summit on violence prevention that will bring in health care providers, community organizations, policymakers and academic leaders to work on solutions for violence recovery. The date for that summit has not been set.
Since opening last May, UChicago Medicine has treated more than 3,000 trauma victims. A quarter of them received help from violence recovery specialists. Advocate Christ Medical Center has operated their trauma center since 1986, treating 4,355 victims last year.
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