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UCHealth expanding violence intervention program

UCHealth in Aurora saw violence-related injuries increase by 82% from 2020 to 2022.

AURORA, Colo. — UCHealth will expand a hospital-based violence intervention program after seeing an alarming increase in the number of crime-related injuries. 

The At-Risk Intervention and Mentoring (AIM) program began as a two-year pilot in 2020. Outreach workers in the emergency department identify patients at risk of repeat violent injury and try to link them to resources in the community. 

Lawrence Goshon, an outreach worker, spends most days talking to patients at their bedsides. He's contracted through Gang Rescue and Support Project (GRASP) to talk to patients ages 15 to 45 who have arrived in the emergency department with violent injuries like gunshot wounds or stab wounds. 

"I was one of the bad kids. I was the kid in 1994 that committed a crime that was tried as an adult. Sentenced to 10 years in prison. When I was done with my crime I got involved in other things," he said. "One day I just asked Johnny, who is our executive director, if he would mind putting me on staff. That way I could give back some of the things I have taken."

Goshon sees the consequences of violence every day. He works several days a week at UCHealth on 24-hour on-call shifts. 

"I can relate to a lot of people that have been shot, stabbed. Because I have been in the same situations," he said. "I have either been the perpetrator or the victim."

He said some patients are open to suggestions and help when they have a conversation at the emergency department. Goshon finds most people who come in with gunshot or stab wounds need help with housing, mental health or finances. 

"If we can reach out to them and talk to them and just show them something a little different, maybe they will change," Goshon said. 

The goal is to reduce violence and protect the community. Through federal funding, AIM plans to add two more outreach workers. 

"We want to reach as many patients as we can, and it is really hard if we don’t have the bandwidth to not be able to do that," said Laurie Lovedale, Program Manager for Injury Prevention at UCHealth.

Even when patients are released from the hospital, outreach workers follow them and their families to make sure they're connected with resources. That help can include mentorship, links to substance abuse services and assistance with medical follow-up. 

UCHealth is looking to add two more outreach workers as the hospital sees an increase in the number of patients with violent injuries. 

In 2020, UCHealth saw 153 patients suffering from gunshot wounds or stabbings. Two years later, the number increased 82%, with 278 patients being admitted for violent injuries.

"We feel very passionate about it, and don’t want any patient to not meet an outreach worker," Lovedale said. "Have that capacity, have that ability to be a part of the program if they want."

They believe talking to patients in the emergency department during a vulnerable moment will help break the cycle of violence. 

"They are hurting. They are scared. And a lot of times they are more susceptible to suggestion and different way of doing things," Goshon said.


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