Launched in June 2012, Denver Health Medical Center’s At Risk Intervention and Mentoring (AIM) project uses a team of six outreach workers to help 10- to 24-year-old victims of violence – many of whom are gang members – overcome serious trauma and lead less risky lives. Early results indicate the program not only is helping to reduce recidivism in the emergency department (ED), but also to connect patients with needed social services in their communities.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that in 2009 roughly 700,000 youth ages 10 to 24 were treated in EDs for injuries sustained as a result of violence. To help such patients at Denver Health, the AIM project uses a two-pronged approach to treatment: a bedside assessment in the ED during which outreach workers determine social risk factors and a case management program that connects patients with community resources.
The hospital works with the anti-gang organization Gang Rescue and Support Project, which supplies the outreach workers. The workers are on call to Denver Health daily, with one in the ED from 11 pm Saturday to 5 am Sunday, when the ED typically sees a greater number of injured. The outreach workers connect patients with employment, education, housing, mental health and substance abuse services.
“We approach violence from the perspective that it is a lifestyle addiction, and our overall goal is to decrease risk factors that put people in situations where they think violence is the answer,” AIM Program Manager Sara Muramoto says. “Our program also tries to teach patients new behaviors and how to handle situations, so they don’t resort to gun violence.”
Since its inception roughly 7 months ago, the program has enrolled 147 patients and has helped hospital staff better coordinate follow-up services for patients with violent injuries. According to Muramoto, the program’s success is bolstered by Denver Health’s presence in the community. By providing nurses and social workers to Denver Public Schools, the hospital has an additional avenue through which to address potential risk factors.
“The only way to address many patients’ medical care is to address their social needs. You can treat their gunshot wound, but whether or not they’re going to be on the street next week doing the same thing, you can’t control,” Muramoto says. “Health care needs to step in, not necessarily treat your social needs, but definitely to get patients help to address those needs.”
For more information about Denver Health’s AIM project, please contact:
AIM Program Manager