Injury Prevention

Breaking the Cycle of Violence

Connecticut Children’s is committed to breaking the cycle of violence and increasing safety in Connecticut communities. As part of that, Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center (IPC) received $2 million in funding from the city of Hartford in March 2022 to oversee the Hospital-based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP) Strengthening Collaborative. Just one year into the three-year project, team members and families say it is making a difference.

Shot While Playing Outside

Renee Beavers is a licensed master social worker who works as an HVIP Specialist with the IPC. Among the cases she took on during the HVIP’s first year involved an 8-year-old boy who was shot while playing outside in his neighborhood.

“I was able to connect the boy’s mother to Case Management services and they were able to wrap her family in services that included housing and mental health services, and also helped her move her family to a safer neighborhood,” said Beavers. “In addition, they were able to address the trauma they experienced as a result of the shooting.”

The child is recovering from his injuries. His mother is enrolled in school and plans to finish her education and earn her high school diploma.

How HVIP Makes a Difference

HVIP is a violence prevention partnership between Connecticut Children’s, Trinity Health of New England, Hartford Hospital and three community organizations – Mothers United Against Violence, COMPASS Youth Collaborative, and Hartford Communities That Care that seeks to break the cycle of violence. HVIP brings needed resources to families and individuals impacted by violence to prevent re-injury and retaliation.

“In the summer of 2021, we began talking with the city of Hartford about how we could collaborate to address firearm violence,” said Kevin Borrup, DrPH, JD, MPA, Executive Director of Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center. “We brought together our partners from Trinity Health and Hartford Hospital to discuss the role of hospitals in addressing violence. We recruited Hartford Communities That Care, COMPASS Youth Collaborative, and Mothers United Against Violence to join us in putting together a plan for action.”

The hospitals and community organizations developed the two-pronged strategy for HVIP, which includes strengthening the trauma informed care lens through screening, intervention and discharge planning, as well as staffing an HVIP Specialist position at each hospital to support victims and families and serve as a bridge to supportive services in the community.

“The effort recognizes that the three community based organizations have been working on this issue for more than 20 years but have struggled to acquire the resources needed to strengthen their services,” said Dr. Borrup. “The three hospitals and three community agencies are working together to ensure enough resources to provide long-term supports for families while strengthening the response of hospitals when a gunshot victim arrives.”

Breaking the Cycle of Violence by Building Trust

At Connecticut Children’s, Beavers brings more than 20 years of experience supporting children and families to her role.

“This position provides an opportunity to be a part of something new that will benefit both the community and families that are affected by violence,” said Beavers. “I grew up in the city of Hartford and have served the community over the last 20 years in different capacities. Any chance I have to give back to the community, I am excited to do so.”

“Since Renee joined our team, we have already seen improvements in our ability to connect young people and their families to supportive community services,” said Dr. Borrup. “In addition, Renee has been able to fill a gap with her specific understanding of violence and trauma to better serve children and families by being an internal advocate that they trust.”

Beavers connects with clinical teams, including care coordinators and social workers, and community partners to educate them about her role and collaborate with them to meet a family’s needs. She says families consistently stress the importance of feeling seen and heard by healthcare professionals.

“In order to be effective in my role, I have to be able to show empathy and have an understanding that this family has experienced a traumatic event,” said Beavers. “As a social worker, I bring a knowledge of trauma and the understanding that each family structure and culture react to trauma differently. Many families are unaware of community resources that are available and often feel powerless to help their children. If the family is open to services, I will bring a provider bedside. If the patient is discharged, I will set up a home visit for the family.”

Both Trinity Health and Hartford Hospital have hired their own HVIP Specialists, with similar results at those institutions. The hospitals and community agencies connect virtually on a daily huddle, which keeps the lines of communication open and enhances the level of collaboration between all partners.

“Many families come into Connecticut Children’s with previous experiences in healthcare that have left them with feelings that they are being judged, contributing to a distrust of hospitals,” said Dr. Borrup. “The number one goal of the HVIP Specialists is to connect with patients to establish trust, which is key to them accepting help and support from the hospital, but also being open to referrals to our community partners who can provide critical, long-term support that can improve outcomes and change trajectories for the better.”

Making a Bigger Impact Going Forward

Annually, Connecticut Children’s works with more than a dozen families whose children have been shot. Combined with HVIP partners at Hartford Healthcare and Trinity Health of New England, the HVIP program serves more than 200 individuals and families each year. Unfortunately, due to the high case fatality rate of firearm injuries, many more never make it to the hospital.

The current funding from the city of Hartford continues through June 2026. Measuring success in breaking the cycle of violence is important to the HVIP team, which plans to document the impact of the program in a couple of ways. The program plans to track how many families connect with and maintain services with community agencies during the first 12 months after the initial injury. The program also plans to track how many gunshot victims who enroll in HVIP are able to avoid repeat injuries.

“The feedback we have received indicates that families are excited that this program is available and that they don’t feel alone in taking steps to protect their families,” said Beavers. “The majority of families I serve through this program are people of color. Historically, people of color have not felt welcome in hospitals and often feel judged and not heard by providers. A lot of feedback shows families are open to services and feel supported by the hospital.”

Another family Beavers helped in HVIP’s first year includes a 16-year old boy who sought treatment at Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department for a gunshot wound. Initially hesitant to enroll in the program, Beavers listened to concerns expressed by the boy’s mother and expressed empathy for their situation.

“The mother initially wanted to leave the hospital and stated she felt like staff members were judging her as a parent and treating her son as if we were a criminal instead of a victim,” said Beavers. “I said, ‘I’m so sorry this happened to you. I know you’re scared, that’s your baby lying in that bed,’ and her face began to soften. I took her to the cafeteria for coffee and she agreed to sign up for services.”

Beavers connected the family to COMPASS Youth Collaborative for services. In addition to working with the agency while still in the hospital, the family scheduled home visits to start upon discharge.

As team members continue their work breaking the cycle of violence, the HVIP program is looking forward to continuing to make a difference for additional families in the months and years ahead.

To learn more about Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center, click here.

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