May 2014

CHOP Launches Violence Prevention Initiative

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The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recently unveiled its Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) in a press conference at the Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia. A set of CHOP programs designed to reduce the severity and impact of violence and aggression on children and families in Philadelphia communities and across the country, Mayor Michael Nutter, Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, Department of Human Services Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose, and the School District of Philadelphia’s Chief of Student Services Karyn Lynch delivered remarks in support of the VPI at the initiative’s launch.

“Every day we see the consequences of violence in our Emergency Department, in our operating rooms and on our patient units,” said Steven M. Altschuler, MD, CEO of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Just since May 1st, 38 people — including six children — have been injured by gun violence in the City of Philadelphia. This number does not include non-gun-related violence, or the trauma imposed on witnesses, friends, family, and communities in which the threat of violence is a daily reality.”

“As an institution that exists to promote the health and well-being of children and as the nation’s leading pediatric hospital, it is our responsibility to find ways to prevent this epidemic from spreading. With the creation of VPI, we hope to find a way to stop the violence that is taking such a toll on children and families in our community,” Dr. Altschuler added.

VPI is led by a multidisciplinary team made up of some of the nation’s foremost experts in hospital-based violence intervention, evidence-based anti-bullying methods, and trauma-informed care. Through the strength of its long-time partnerships with community organizations, CHOP’s VPI builds on years of rigorous public health research to address and prevent ongoing concerns such as bullying in schools, intimate partner violence in the home and violent assaults in the community.

“More than 40 percent of young people in the U.S. are exposed to some form of violence — the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against another person or group,” said Stephen Leff, PhD, a CHOP psychologist and co-director of VPI. “Youth can be exposed to violence in their homes, schools and communities with serious, lifelong consequences, including poor emotional and developmental health; long-term changes within the brain and stress reactions; school failure, drug abuse and delinquency; and the likelihood to perpetuate violence.”

The VPI programs concentrate CHOP’s medical training, mental health programs, provider training, research expertise, and knowledge of public health policies to interrupt violence while ensuring that limited resources are spent efficiently with the greatest chance for impact. Interventions occur at locations that are relevant to CHOP patients — within schools, primary care, and hospital sites.

The majority of children reached by VPI may never be CHOP patients, but instead witness violence in their schools or communities. VPI works within schools to provide evidence-based, whole-school approaches to bullying prevention for children in third through eighth grade. These programs address the multiple forms that aggression and bullying can take, including physical, social (such as gossiping and threatening to withdraw friendships), and cyber-bullying. This training gives them tools to handle and avoid more dire forms of violence as they grow older.

In addition, intimate partner violence (IPV) counselors support clinical staff in screening for and addressing IPV and teen dating violence in our patient population. This is a partnership with Lutheran Settlement House, with the goal of minimizing the adverse effects of childhood IPV exposure. Healthcare provider training and parenting education is also provided.

And children ages 8 through 18 who arrive in CHOP’s Emergency Department with injuries from an assault receive long-term intensive support from a violence prevention counselor in the hospital and after discharge to reduce re-injury or retaliation and to promote physical and emotional healing.

“VPI programs reach beyond the hospital and doctors office into schools, homes, neighborhoods, and recreation centers by empowering and training kids and adults to interrupt the cycle of violence,” said Joel Fein, MD, MPH, a CHOP Emergency Physician and co-director of VPI. “Through the practice of trauma-informed care, an approach that recognizes that traumatic experiences affect the way people respond to professional outreach and services, VPI aims to become a national model for hospital-led youth violence prevention.”

Further information about VPI and its specific programs can be found at chop.edu/violence.

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