People hospitalized with a firearm injury are 30 times more likely to return to the hospital with another firearm injury than people hospitalized for other reasons. And they’re 11 times more likely to die from gun violence within the next five years, according to a study commissioned by the Seattle City Council.
Researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington studied 20,000 patients hospitalized in King County and 77,000 hospitalized in all of Washington state in 2006 and 2007. They went back five years and forward five years, examining patients’ previous arrest and hospitalization histories.
Dr. Frederick Rivara, lead author and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, said that the study’s finding of a correlation isn’t that surprising, but that the rates are dramatic.
“Those people are really at high risk,” he said.
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The study highlighted a strong correlation between firearm-related hospitalizations and poor outcomes after being discharged, including repeated hospitalization, commission of crime and death. A quarter of those hospitalized for a firearm-related injury were arrested for firearm-related crime within the next five years.
Researchers found that those hospitalized with a gun-related injury who had a prior arrest for gun-related or violent crime were 43 times more likely to be slain within the next five years than those without either.
The study also looked at patients’ prior alcohol or drug abuse as well as prior psychiatric history. Those who were hospitalized with a gun-related injury who had prior arrests for firearms or violence were 13 times more likely to be arrested over the next five years, while those with prior psychiatric history were only twice as likely to be arrested.
Council President Tim Burgess led the council to authorize $153,000 for the study last June in light of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut. Seattle is the first American city to pioneer research of the effects of gun violence, since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot receive federal funds for a national study after the National Rifle Association successfully lobbied against such funding in 1996.
The findings will be presented to the City Council at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
“It was important for the city to step up and fund this research so we could get the facts on gun violence and in our community,” Burgess said.
Beyond gun laws, Burgess has an idea to provide patients with firearm-related injuries with similar treatment methods to those with alcohol abuse: an intervention strategy where patients could meet with physicians, social workers and psychologists before being discharged.
“We’re headed in the right direction in upstream interventions,” he said.
Colleen Wright: 206-464-2240 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Colleen_Wright