KANSAS CITY, KANSAS — Youth violence is a leading cause of death for young people and is responsible for more than 400,000 nonfatal injuries each year nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention. Although violent incidents also can have serious physical, mental and social effects on young people, it can be difficult for them to navigate and receive support afterward, and that can lead to further violence.
For youths who are treated through The University of Kansas Health System, a hospital-based intervention program provides support to young victims of violence in hopes of reducing the reverberating effects.
REVIVE, or Reducing the Effects of Violence through Intervention and Victim Empowerment, is a collaboration among the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, Wyandotte County Community Corrections, The University of Kansas Health System and a federally funded grant program based at KU called ThrYve, or Together Helping Reduce Youth Violence for Equity.
Directed by Jomella Watson-Thompson, associate professor of applied behavioral science and associate director at the KU Center for Community Health & Development at the Life Span Institute, ThrYve is funded by a 2017 four-year, $1.7 million grant awarded to Watson-Thompson to study comprehensive approaches to prevent youth violence in the Kansas City area.
Watson-Thompson said REVIVE was developed as a community-driven program to help support young people by connecting them with ThrYve and its community partners.
“The way that REVIVE works is to reduce recidivism,” Watson-Thompson said. “We don’t want our young people to continue to return back to the emergency room or to the hospital for these violence-related injuries.”
REVIVE’s main goal is to “break the cycle of violence,” according to Olivia Desmarais, trauma injury prevention specialist at The University of Kansas Health System. The program connects the admitted patients who are eligible for the program with corresponding support systems that follow the participants’ needs during a six-month period.
To be considered for REVIVE, patients need to be 12 to 24 years old, live in Wyandotte County and be a victim of violence. The criteria exclude self-harm, domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault since each one of those already has specific care pathways within the health system.
Launched in July 2020, the program has so far identified 21 people eligible to participate. Currently, REVIVE is serving six individuals.
Damon Daniel, president of Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, also provided insights on the organization's role with youths who were admitted to the hospital.
“We have to rely on hospital staff to make the pitch and connect people to us,” Daniel said. “When we do get the referrals, we’re following up via phone and then trying to handle some of the case management, whether it be via Zoom virtually or just telephone conversations.”
According to Daniel, many young patients who just went through a traumatic event were clueless about how different organizations can help them. Therefore, it is important to gain trust through initial contact with the patients. However, because it started during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program had to adjust to making referrals and offering subsequent meetings on online platforms and by phone instead of personal visits.
For Desmarais, the hospital's trauma injury prevention specialist, as well as for the program’s case manager and advocate responders, that makes things more challenging.
“I think a lot of it hinges on that bedside visit,” she said. “Having that face-to-face connection, showing up at their bedside in a patient’s time of need, and having somebody come and say: ‘Hey, I’m here for you and only you, and I’m here to advocate for you to get better,’ is really powerful, and I think we’re missing that piece.”
REVIVE is in partnership with The University of Kansas Health System and University of Kansas Medical Center. According to Dr. Robert Winfield, division chief for trauma, acute care surgery and critical care at The University of Kansas Health System, REVIVE meets a significant community need and is addressing the major issue within the shared community through holistic approaches. The development of REVIVE is also a response to the Wyandotte County Community Health Improvement Plan strategy.
“Unfortunately, young people in Wyandotte County are lost to violence at a much greater rate than their counterparts in other parts of the country,” Winfield said. “As trauma surgeons, my faculty group knows that the only way to prevent the devastation of injury is to prevent it in the first place, and these early interventions are critical to preventing interpersonal violence and the injuries that result.”