It’s no secret that a number of cities in the East Bay experience crime. For youth residents, violence often becomes a way of survival; more often than not they have been witnesses to, and victims of, violence at a very young age.
The result is a devastating and self-perpetuating cycle of poverty and violence. Many of these victims of violence end up at Highland Hospital’s Trauma Center. Clinicians there insisted there had to be a better way to address the problem and end a revolving door of trauma, healing, retribution, re-injury and even death.
Highland Hospital officials 15 years ago decided to collaborate with YouthALIVE!, a community-based nonprofit, and together take a pioneering approach to breaking this cycle. Since then, more than 1,500 young people, ranging in age from 12 to 24, have benefitted as participants in its Youth Violence Prevention Program. The program, the first in the country, is now the “best practice” model for more than 23 similar programs in hospital trauma centers across the U.S.
An Innovative Program Created by Medical Providers at Highland Hospital
At the heart of this new program was a “just-in-time” approach whereby counselors connected with young people at the time when they are most receptive to change. That “teachable moment” occurred when they were injured and are being treated for a life-altering, perhaps even life-threatening, injury resulting from street violence.
Once an injured youth arrives at Highland, medical staff contacts a seasoned AHS trauma social worker who, with the youth’s consent and parental permission, enrolls the patient in the Youth Violence Prevention Program. The youth is matched with a young adult from a similar background who has successfully overcome a violent environment. This “Intervention Specialist” mentors the youth for up to 12 months, sometimes longer, providing support, advice and assistance in accessing needed community resources including housing, transportation, education, mental health and other services. The Program consistently achieves outstanding results including:
Why This Program Matters
There is widespread agreement among medical experts that one’s zip code is often the primary determinant of one’s health status. The Youth Violence Prevention Program offers participants the opportunity to gain skills to overcome the many challenges they face. Among the many youth helped by the Program is Caheri G. (featured in the video above). Suffering life-threatening injuries due to a random act of youth gun violence in East Oakland, Caheri was literally put back together again by medical providers in Highland’s renowned Trauma Department. Now a college graduate, Caheri is a regular speaker at high schools throughout the East Bay where she shares her message of violence prevention.
By helping youth break out of the deadly cycle of violence and poverty that permeates their neighborhoods, the Youth Violence Prevention Program benefits us all, regardless of where we live. We all benefit!