PATERSON, NJ – Hospitals across New Jersey, including St. Joseph's, are set to launch new initiatives to end the cycle of gun violence. On Wednesday, Governor Phil Murphy, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords announced the winners of grant funding to establish nine hospital-based violence intervention programs.

Hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs) reach victims of gun violence and others touched by violence right at the time of crisis and are proven to reduce repeat injury.  They seek to leverage these crucial moments, when medical treatment and recovery services can be combined with education, counseling, social services, and case management to prevent future involvement in violence. HVIPs serve victims of many types of violence, including human trafficking.  

“The funding awarded today further reinforces our Administration’s commitment to reducing gun violence in New Jersey by enhancing the tools at the disposal of public health facilities and victim service providers,” said Governor Murphy.  “With the implementation of hospital-based violence intervention programs, our state is better equipped to support victims and offer best practices to the community organizations working to prevent additional violence from occurring.”

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The announcement that the program utilizing, $20 million in federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding, the largest VOCA award ever in the nation for hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs), makes New Jersey one of the first states to use these dollars to implement the programs, which are designed to enhance services to victims and break cycles of violence in hard-hit communities. 

Each of the nine hospital selected to participate in the 21-month program will be eligible for up to $2 million in funding, awarded through an application process.

Overseeing the program for St. Joseph's Health will be Dr. James Pruden, an emergency room physician and the hospital's director of preparedness. The goal, he said, is to "break the cycle" of violence. Whether it's mental health intervention, family support and engagement, or any other service the hope is that the HVIP will help reduce, or even eliminate, the likelihood of retaliation that often occurs following an act of violence.

"Working alone is not effective," Pruden responded when asked what will be different about this program as opposed to others launched with the same goal in mind. Praising several initiatives and organizations that have sought to curb violence in the past Pruden added that success will "require coordination and an understanding that their no perfect solution."

New Jersey Attorney General said the announcement made it “an exciting day for New Jersey” and the funding “a big victory for all of the organizations and individuals who work tirelessly each day to serve victims and prevent violence,” while former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, applauding the officials gathered in Jersey City for the announcement for making sure New Jersey “has always met tragedy with action, and never stopped pushing forward in addressing the gun violence crisis.”

“Today, leadership stepped up yet again,” Giffords said. “Providing communities the resources to fight this epidemic is a necessary leap in the right direction.”

For U.S. Senator Cory Booker the launch of these intervention programs in New Jersey is an opportunity to expand a proven model and make it work in cities across the US.  “The epidemic of everyday gun violence is ravaging our urban communities,” Booker said. “We need bold, innovative ideas to help New Jersey tackle this challenge and make our communities safer which is why I have proposed a similar initiative at the federal-level.”

The Health Alliance for Violence Intervention (HAVI), it was announced, will serve as the training and technical assistance provider for the New Jersey Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program and will also receive a VOCA grant to support all nine of the programs in New Jersey to ensure that they have all the tools they need to follow national best practices.

Recalling a patient he provided care to more than a decade ago, Pruden concluded by saying the program will offer an alternative to violence. The gang member in that incident, receiving treatment after being attacked, appeared to be "soldiering" the injuries, offering up only that "there was more of them than me," as an explanation for the outcome of the fight.

When asked if he ever considered getting out of the gang the man teared up, responding only that "it's too late." 

“We want to offer that off-ramp,” Pruden said. 

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