Securing funds to address gun violence was at the heart of a congressional and state legislative forum held in Hartford Monday afternoon. Advocates said they want to see successful national models to combat violence adopted here in Connecticut -- and they have an idea of how to find the necessary money.
When someone is shot in a city like Hartford, it's not uncommon for more violence to happen in hospital waiting rooms or lobbies.
Hospital-based violence intervention programs help to reduce these sort of chain reactions in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, and then support survivors once they're able to go home.
Some $1.8 billion is set to be paid out to hospitals across the state over the next several years, after the Lamont administration reached a settlement on the contentious hospital tax. All it needs is approval from the state legislature, and that discussion is set for this Wednesday in special session.
State Senator Doug McCrory wants to see if some of the settlement funding can be earmarked specifically for these types of gun violence intervention programs.
“Hospitals are partnering with non-profit organizations and other communities that are doing a lot of work around violence prevention and violence and care for individuals,” he said, “and I think that's something we should write into the agreement. I don’t know if we can do it by Wednesday but I’m definitely going to try.”
In 2004, Hartford Communities That Care (HCTC) created the Hartford Care Response Team to address the "mental health and medical needs of victims assaulted or killed by gunshot, knife wounds or blunt trauma." HCTC is the state's only hospital-linked violence intervention program, with partners at St. Francis Hospital, Harriott Home Health Services and Saint Francis Primary Care physicians.
According to The Health Alliance for Violence Intervention (HAVI), approximately 41 percent of patients treated for violent injury are re-injured within five years. Hospital-based intervention programs include a focus on connecting survivors dealing with PTSD, substance abuse issues, and other mental and emotional challenges with providers.
State Rep. Matt Ritter said he wants to see Connecticut take advantage of a California-based "Medicaid Match" model. This type of program allows funds from the federal Victims of Violent Crime Act (VOCA) to reimburse peer counseling by violence intervention specialists working on the streets to defuse and resolve conflicts before they come deadly.
"We gotta figure out a way to provide the peer counseling services where every dollar Connecticut puts in, the federal government is reimbursing us," Ritter said.