Violent crime is a prevalent public health issue in Marion County, Indiana. The county’s homicide death rate per 100,000 people increased from 17.05 in 2017 to 17.69 in 2018, which is more than twice as high as the 2017 rates for Indiana, which is 7.2 per 100,000 people. The national rate is 6.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
While numbers only measure the severity of violence happening around Marion County, they do not tell the stories that are attached to each individual that that number represents. However, for the men and women working in the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center at Eskenazi Health, those numbers have a face, a family member, loved ones who are impacted by this violence for the rest of their lives.
“Marion County has a public health problem in terms of violence. The rate of homicide in Marion County is more than twice the average for the state of Indiana and the United States as a whole,” said Erik W. Streib, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery and chief of trauma services at the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center. “The rate of violence, of course, exceeds the rate of homicide because there are many people who aren’t killed but are either injured or affected by violence above the number that are victims of homicide.”
However, through a $500,000 federal grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Indiana University School of Medicine faculty members working in the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center, along with Indy HeartBeat are working to end youth violence. Indy HeartBeat is a community-based partnership between Eskenazi Health, Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Tyrone Humphrey Jr., the Community Manager for Indy HeartBeat, explained that Indy HeartBeat was formed in 2016, and utilizes a two-pronged approached—first providing interventions at the individual and family level through social intervention, and then working to reduce crime at the overall community level through community outreach, improving economic factors and violence interruption education.
“Our ultimate goal is to have our violence intervention specialists work directly with youth and their families to provide the comprehensive wraparound services to address some of the achievement goals of the youth and families effective by violence,” said Humphrey.
For many working in the program, they say they see violence as a disease, and the best way to fight disease is through prevention.
“Just like medical illnesses have certain social and economic determinants that can contribute to other illnesses or access to treatment, violence is also affected by those same social determinants,” said Streib. “We’re hoping to reduce the homicides, the risk of disability, and all the many downstream effects that violence has on both the patient, their families their communities.”
Sherri Marley, trauma program manager for the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center, explained that the mission at Eskenazi Health is to advocate, care, teach, and serve.
The best way to serve the community, Marley said, is to make sure that everything is done to prevent injuries in the first place.
“I think we’re doing our jobs as medical professionals because the goal is not just to wait for the patients to come to the hospitals,” said Marley. “As medical professionals, we have to look at it and say, ‘we’ve got to do something, we have to fight this disease.’ And the best ways we can fight trauma is through prevention.”
Indy HeartBeat is always looking to work with partners to help identify youth who may be at risk of violence, and who may be able to contribute to providing support to their growing program.
“If there is a community leader, stakeholder, or business that feels that they would like to work with us in our efforts and believe in our mission, my philosophy has always been there’s always room at the table,” said Humphrey. “We definitely believe in a collective impact approach to addressing this disease.”
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Marco Gutierrez is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he supports the Department of Surgery and the Office of Strategic Communications. Before joining the Office of Strategic Communications, Marco worked for...