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‘We got to look at this in a different light’: Pilot program at Methodist focuses on gunshot victims

Violence Intervention Program
Posted at 10:44 PM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 09:32:29-04

INDIANAPOLIS — For nearly a decade, Jennifer Burchett’s worked as an ER and trauma nurse. She has seen it all at IU Health Methodist Hospital -- one of the state’s four Level One Trauma Centers.

"In addition to having a pandemic going on, I think we also have a pandemic of gun violence in our national and especially in our city,” Burchett said.

She continued, “What we haven’t anticipated, but now we’re getting used to, is that we’re going to see a gunshot victim — at least one — every day. Every single day.”

Last year, Methodist saw a drastic increase in gunshot victims. According to data from the hospital, they treated 332 gunshot wounds, up from 288 in 2020 and 204 in 2019.

This year, leaders project just as many patients will come through their doors.

“Yay we feel good that the person is going to make it, but then like I don’t want to see you in a couple of months for the same thing, and sometimes we do,” Burchett said.

Tiffany Davis is the hospital’s injury prevention coordinator.

“Historically we of course treat the medical needs, but we don’t always have the capacity to treat the mental health needs and social health needs,” Davis said.

She is leading the efforts of a new violence intervention program hoping to change that.

IU health nurse Deb Duncan is one of two grad students assisting.

“So we’re not just letting them go and kicking them out the door. I think it’s really important to keep tabs if they need it,” Duncan said.

Through the pilot program, the team asks gunshot victims about their needs with a focus on mental health, resiliency, and social determinants of health.

“Even though it’s after the fact, meaning these individuals have already been shot, it is a teachable moment and it is the time to intervene,” Davis said.

Since starting last month, the team screened 17 patients and identified 14 at risk for developing PTSD. Out of the group screened, 15 of them were linked to outside community resources to get help with food, jobs and housing.

“We also ask them, ‘Can we call back in two weeks? Can we call back in four weeks?’ And just make sure how you’re doing,” Duncan said.

The goal is simple – become a solution to the city’s gun violence epidemic.

“I hope and pray that it does,” Burchett said.

The pilot program is expected to last until the end of the year. Before that wraps up, leaders tell WRTV they will apply for grant funding. Long-term, the plan is to expand the program to assist the families of gunshot victims.