Pivot to Peace aims to foster hope, reduce violence
Alice Bridges, Eileen Blanton & Eddie Woods
(Original article: courier-journal.com, March 22 2016)
We all have key moments when making change in our lives is more likely. It may be the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, or recovering from an illness.
For young people who have been shot or stabbed, that key moment for change can occur while they are in the hospital, recovering from their injuries. This brief window of time — of vulnerability and rethinking their lives — is when an innovative new initiative called Pivot to Peace will offer the respect, skills and resources to strengthen participants, supporting them in a crucial pivot to a healthier, nonviolent way of life.
Pivot to Peace adapts proven best practices from hospitals around the country, using guidelines from the National Network of Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs that sees trauma centers like University of Louisville Hospital as a place to engage injured patients, family and friends. Truman Medical Center in Kansas City correlates the 2008 launch of a similar violence interrupter program with a significant drop in the citywide homicide rate and reduction in trauma patients with intentional penetrating wounds of 6 percent over two years.
Now, after more than two years of planning in Louisville, a coalition of organizations has pooled our collective resources to begin offering Pivot to Peace starting in April.
Here’s how it will work: when 18- to 34-year-olds who live in one of nine west Louisville neighborhoods presents at U of L Hospital with injury from gunshot or stabbing, the hospital’s Community Health Worker will invite them to participate in the free program (made possible with grants from the Gheens Foundation, Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence and U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention). A detailed analysis of data was used to develop the eligibility criteria so that resources are initially focused on those with the highest rates of injury and death.
Those who decide to enroll will be paired with a caseworker from Peace Education Program, a specially trained peer from the community who will work with participants for up a year. The first goal is developing a “stay safe” plan if there is risk of retaliation.
Case workers will support the immediate physical and mental health care needs of participants to include ensuring they make follow-up medical appointments. And, recognizing the pervasive impact of trauma and substance abuse as underlying causes of violence, a mental health counselor from Our Lady of Peace is a key member of the Pivot team to deliver both individual and family therapy.
After building trust and meeting immediate needs, case workers will support participants in setting and achieving their long-term goals—like earning a GED, taking job-readiness classes, getting a driver’s license, applying for jobs, attending AA/NA meetings and introducing them to individuals and groups in the community that can help them to be successful.
In addition, Peace Ed will conduct monthly conflict-resolution classes for participants, their family and friends. This 20-hour course recognizes that conflict and violence don’t occur in isolation; people need a whole community of support to effect challenging changes.
The program itself represents a pivotal moment for Louisville when diverse organizations are teaming together to make systemic change. It includes KentuckyOne Health’s University of Louisville Hospital (the region’s only level I adult trauma center), the Louisville Metro Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods and Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and Peace Education, a non-profit organization that has worked in conflict resolution for more than 30 years in the neighborhoods and schools at highest risk for violence. The Peace Ed network of adults and young people who are committed to creating islands of safety, support and respect throughout our city serve as the backbone for Pivot to Peace.
In addition, the University of Louisville’s Commonwealth Institute is conducting a rigorous evaluation to document outcomes as the partners strive to expand the program to serve other Louisville neighborhoods.
It is critical that we act, and act as one, to support our underserved communities. 2015 was one of the most violent years in our city’s history. We must join together to address the root causes of this violence and provide ladders of opportunity. The fact is many of the young men and women who have been shot and stabbed have lost hope that any choice is possible other than violence. They have lost hope that their community cares. Pivot to Peace resoundingly says “we care.” We are committed to their success and will help open doors that have been closed in the past.
This not just a pivotal moment for these young men and women, but for our city. In the midst of the violence, we can seize the opportunity to discover what it takes to make a viable livelihood possible for those at greatest risk. Together we will learn what it takes to Pivot to Peace.
Alice Bridges is vice president of Healthy Communities for KentuckyOne Health. Eileen Blanton is executive director of Peace Education Program. Eddie Woods, Ph.D., is director of Youth Development at Neighborhood House. Peace Ed and Dr. Woods have more than 25 years of experience in fostering safe schools and communities through violence prevention, mediation, intervention and risk assessments.