As the world attempts to deal with the overwhelming realities of living with COVID-19, one thing is clear: the devasting impact on health and well-being will be felt well into the future. Violence is an issue that may be less apparent right now when so many other, more immediate and tragic conditions, are evident. But violence can escalate in environments where people are living in close quarters, often with limited resources and in a state of fear.
CommonSpirit Health is committed to addressing the public health crisis of violence. Through the alignment of existing programs from our predecessor systems, Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health, we now have a holistic model for both responding to and preventing violence: the Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention and Response Program.
Our community-based violence prevention efforts are more important than ever, as critical space in our hospitals is needed to treat COVID-19 victims and others with existing health issues. Violence is preventable and we can take action to ensure safety, even in this time of social distancing.
Several CommonSpirit communities are doing just that – finding creative solutions in community-based violence prevention programs even in the absence of direct, face-to-face contact with those we serve. Reducing stress and maintaining connection is crucial to preventing and responding to violence. Here are a few ways CommonSpirit is helping:
- In Columbus, Ohio, a program that serves an immigrant community is teaching families to connect with program staff using Zoom. A paper survey also captures information on the stressors impacting families, enabling the program to provide vital resources that address immediate needs and help to reduce fear.
- In London, Kentucky, a program to prevent child abuse is finding creative ways to stay in touch with families virtually and through phone visits. Recently, they delivered 65 Easter baskets filled with food, toys, games and arts and crafts to families they serve, providing useful activities and tips for reducing stress.
- In Breckenridge, Minnesota, a program that mentors new parents is sharing best practices on empathetic listening with other CommonSpirit communities to help increase understanding of effective communication in crisis situations.
- In Dayton, Ohio, a school-based program to address youth violence has moved online using YouTube videos. The program has also provided more than 1,000 gift bags with toys, games and snacks to the families it serves.
- In Key Peninsula, Washington, a program to address youth violence has partnered with local schools to deliver meals to families by using school buses that drop off the food on their regular bus routes.
- In Federal Way, Washington, a school-based youth violence prevention program is now offered virtually, and a program to prevent young men from getting involved with gangs has equipped their peer mentors with phones to maintain contact with those they serve. They have also implemented a “buddy” system for the young men to reinforce accountability.
These are just a few ways that CommonSpirit lives out its mission and commitment to addressing violence; a commitment that will continue through COVID-19 and beyond.
For more information on CommonSpirit’s Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention and Response Program, contact Laura Krausa or Holly Gibbs.