PATERSON, NJ –  Regardless of one’s political inclinations, it is hard to argue the accessibility of Mayor Andre Sayegh, the tech savvy official who always seems just a phone call or text away.

On Wednesday, surrounded by state officials, professionals from St. Joseph’s Health, community leaders, and anti-violence advocates, Sayegh described the dread he feels everytime news of another shooting comes across his screen.

“I don’t want to receive any more of those calls,” Sayegh said before acknowledging that Paterson can not “police it’s way out of violence.”

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Through the delivery of a $1.3 million, 21 month grant, those gathered at Paterson City Hall, including Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes, hope to stem the cycle of violence via the launch of a hospital-based violence intervention program.

As previously reported by TAPinto Paterson, St. Joseph’s was one of nine New Jersey hospitals to receive the funding designed to reach victims of gun violence and others touched by violence right at the time of crisis and are proven to reduce repeat injury.  

The program, Valdes said, will thrive on collaboration, bringing various stakeholders together to leverage the 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.  

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 previously, is to "break the cycle.”. 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 said 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."

Among the community leaders present was Reverend Allen Boyer. Able to boast of a long history at the helm of Ceasefire Paterson, Boyer and his colleagues have experience working directly with victims of violence, and their families. As a partner in the program Boyer said it will give them “another opportunity to help victims turn their lives around, to show them violence is not the way.”

Paterson resident Rahshon Dixon knows something about being involved in violence, he told TAPinto Paterson. However, with previous incarceration under his belt, he also knows about finding a different path in life.

In addition to his nearly 13 years as an employee of the Paterson Department of Public Works, Dixon also spends a lot of time helping others who may be going down the same path he did when he was “out in the streets.”

When pressed why he thought this program could be successful Dixon answered that the “trauma” that comes with being victim of violence could be the very thing to “stop them in their tracks.”

Despite on uptick in homicides in 2019 Dixon believes that things are improving in Paterson. “Too much attention is placed on what is not being done, at looking at the negative,” he lamented.

While he says “one more murder is too many,” Dixon shared his confidence that through the continued efforts of the community and other leaders “things are going to continue to get better.”

By following a “humble and peaceful approach,” Dixon concluded, “we can show them that there’s a better way of life.”

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