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ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis’ four trauma centers are trying to keep people out of their hospitals with a new violence prevention program.

The St. Louis Area Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program will add social workers at Barnes-Jewish, SSM Health St. Louis University and SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s hospitals. The initiative is an expansion of the 2012 Victims of Violence program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, which pairs social workers with children who have been beaten, stabbed or shot, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .

The social workers in the latest program will visit injured children and adults in the hospitals, and then as often as weekly for up to a year after they’re released. Each victim will set goals related to education, job training or relationships.

The project is funded by a $1.6 million, three-year grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health. It’s sponsored by the Institute for Public Health at Washington University.

The program offers a “teaching moment” to stop the cycle of violence, said William Powderly, the institute’s director.

“If they survive it, it can be a time of some reflection,” Powderly said. “Hopefully by changing their trajectory, you’re preventing future episodes of violence.”

The rate of repeat patients in the trauma unit at St. Louis Children’s is about 10 percent, said Dr. Martin Keller, trauma medical director.

“If we don’t’ intervene early when their very first visits are happening, we will continue to see them come back and the violence will escalate,” said Margie Batek, a social worker who developed the Victims of Violence program. “They will be more injured or they will injure someone else. If we do nothing, we know they are going to come back hurt.”

Washington University launched a gun violence initiative after the 2014 shooting death of Chelsea Harris, 16. Chelsea was a St. Louis high school student who had been mentored by the wife of Chancellor Mark Wrighton.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,