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Study finds trauma informed therapy has significant impact on gun violence victims

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Posted at 9:02 PM, Dec 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-11 21:13:49-05

INDIANAPOLIS— Dr. Damaris Ortiz is a trauma surgeon who sees patients at IU Health and Eskenazi.

For the last few years she's been studying gun violence in Indianapolis.

"I was surprised initially," said Ortiz.

Ortiz started in Indianapolis in 2019 after spending time in Chicago and Houston.

"Big cities known for violence and I came here not expecting to feel that same level of acuity or numbers and it shocked me how it was worse," said Ortiz.

Violent crime numbers have been trending upward since the pandemic. In 2021, Indianapolis was named the 11th most violent city in the US based on FBI crime reports.

According to IMPD, there has been 790 people shot in Indianapolis this year, 209 of them were fatal. Those numbers are down from last year, but Dr. Ortiz says they're not at pre-pandemic levels.

"I do think because it happens so frequently its unfortunately something we’re used to and so there is that level of here we go again, Ortiz.

Ortiz is also working on the solution to the problem. She's the medical director for Prescription for Hope, a hospital-based violence prevention program WRTV has reported on before.

The idea of the program is to connect patients who suffered a violent injury with tools for a successful recovery. The hope is they won't be back in a similar situation again.

Ortiz did a study last year looking at how the program is doing.

"Comparing similar patients who went through Prescription of Hope and those that didn’t. The ones that went through the program had about a 50% less likely chance of getting re-injured within the next two years after that initial injury," said Ortiz.

Ortiz has been working alongside Laureen Magee, an assistant professor at the IU Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Magee recently conducted a study talking to gun shot injury victims about the emotional impact they've had on them and if they seek mental health services or counseling.

Magee says many of them didn't because they prefer to talk to people in their own circle or didn't think counselors understood where they're coming from.

"We really need to make sure that Prescription for Hope and other programs are connecting survivors with trauma informed therapists who understand the lives and communities that survivors live in as well as providing resources for family members," said Magee.