Jersey City Medical Center is expanding its services in support of victims of violence and their families, thanks to a federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant.

Based on an evidence-based treatment and intervention model developed at the University of California, the program is being rolled out to four sites in New Jersey, including the Jersey City Medical Center — making this the only program of its kind in Hudson County.

The hospital offers a multi-pronged approach to providing treatment and support for victims and families impacted by violence in both clinical and non-clinical peer settings. 

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“We work hard to ensure that victims and their families receive the full range of care that they deserve, and at no cost,” says Marli Gelfand, senior director of Behavioral Services, who oversees the hospital’s Trauma Recovery Center. “In addition to dealing with issues that include domestic violence, gang violence, substance abuse, and human trafficking, the program also works with victims of racial trauma and violence against the LGBTQ community.” 

Through the Trauma Recovery Center, program participants receive clinical care that includes psychotherapy and counseling services, and also receive a variety of support and referral services. “This may include everything from addressing food and housing insecurity, to making referrals for workforce training or legal representation” says Gelfand. “This helps victims remove barriers to success and set themselves up for a healthy, independent future.”

A separate but complementary program is JCMC’s Hospital-based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP), which provides non-clinical peer support. As part of this, the hospital employs a skilled Trauma Program Navigator, himself a former victim who is now committed to helping others break the cycle of violence. 

“The Navigator works closely with victims and families to understand their unique situations, and help devise realistic solutions,” says Marissa Fisher, MHI, BSN, RN, Trauma Program Director at JCMC, who directs the HVIP program as well as the hospital’s Level II Trauma Center. “Whether it’s helping patients get to and from appointments, or referring them for clinical and case management when necessary, the Trauma Program Navigator ensures that the Trauma Recovery Center and HVIP work together seamlessly to provide an outstanding continuum of care for those in need.” 

“The possibility of violence is a reality in any community,” says Whitney Bracco, Assistant Vice President of Social Impact. “But thanks to public health programs like this one, we’re changing the narrative and removing stigmas, and reminding Hudson County residents that we are here to address the needs of our neighborhoods behind the four walls of the hospital.”

Bracco added that these efforts have been supported in Hudson County by the hospital’s community partners, including the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition.

“The Coalition is a vital partner in the work we are doing,” she said. “They are a well-respected organization that our community trusts, and whom we trust to work with our patients and help them avoid a return to the hospital and end the cycle of violence.”

“People are resilient,” adds Gelfand. “They can recover from trauma if they have access to the proper resources and support. That is what we are here to provide, each and every day.”