Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $250,000)
Boston Medical Center’s Violence Intervention Advocacy Program (VIAP) was conceived in 2006 to help stem the tide of Boston’s gun and knife violence. Over the past sixteen years, VIAP has become a vital component of violence intervention in the city and beyond. With the knowledge that violent injury is the strongest predictor of future violent injury, VIAP’s mission is to assist victims of violence and their families to recover from physical and emotional trauma and empower them with skills, services and opportunities so they may return to their communities, make positive changes in their lives, strengthen others who have been affected by violence, and contribute to building better communities. To accomplish this, patient victims and their families are paired with a team comprised of a case manager, a mental health clinician, and a family support advocate to help them overcome barriers and turn their lives around.
A powerful VIAP innovation is that the intervention with the patient begins in the safety of the hospital, where they are visited by a Violence Intervention Advocate within 48 hours of admission to initiate case management, taking advantage of the “teachable moment” associated with violent injury. As the victim heals, the VIAP team continues a comprehensive treatment program that includes safety planning, counseling, job and educational training, mental health, and family support services.
It is significant to note that BMC, a safety net hospital, receives approximately 70% of the city’s gunshot and stabbing victims. Boston neighborhoods primarily served by this program include the South End, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, South Boston, and Hyde Park. During the past year this program served 382 victims of violence, including 185 gunshot and 197 stabbing victims. There were 286 family members served through VIAP’s Family Support component, as well as 27 families of homicide victims. Survivors received a spectrum of services, including employment help (330 services provided and 21 new jobs obtained in 2021); behavioral and mental health care (70% in short-term therapy and 30% in long term); and legal assistance. VIAP assisted with housing applications; education (4 obtained their HiSet and 5 completed job training); assistance with food insecurity, transportation, obtaining a driver’s license, obtaining a social security card, and registering to vote. Medical assistance included accessing primary care, PT, rehab., nursing services (for 117 victims), substance use and medication management.
VIAP’s staff wellness program includes trainings, team building, and other essential supportive resources.