Health Advice



Violent crime leaves invisible injuries. Philly hospital staffers use their life stories to help heal them

Jason Laughlin, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

People often are discharged from the hospital back to the neighborhood where they were wounded and fear that home is no longer safe.

An opportunity to talk and find support would have been invaluable to Mitchell Robinson. He felt numb and angry after being shot in the shoulder and leg when he was 15 by someone who wanted his Christmas gift, a new leather trench coat.

“Some of the people go through a deep, dark thing,” said Robinson, 47, now an antiviolence activist for Philadelphia Cease Fire.

Philadelphia’s fatal and nonfatal shootings in 2022 are trending similar to the record numbers reported in 2021, according to Philadelphia Police Department data. As of April 25, 528 people have survived shootings in the city this year.

Nationally, injuries from firearms in recent years have surpassed automobile accidents as the leading cause of death in children and young adults.

These trends have prompted an increase of funding for violence intervention programs, according to Scott Charles, the trauma outreach manager at Temple, which is hiring its first dedicated intervention specialist with a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

“We find ourselves in desperate times,” Charles said.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health participates in the Hospital Based Violence Intervention Collaborative involving six city trauma hospitals. The city provides more than $208,000 to to Healing Hurt People, the pioneering Drexel University program, through the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. Other programs draw support from a range of sources including federal, state, local grants.


Hospitals starting their intervention programs may have as few as one specialist for the time-intensive work of connecting clients with services.

In the Philadelphia region, the wait to see a therapist can be months long, according to Jenkins, who has worked at St. Christopher’s as a community health worker for two years.

Oronde McClain, 32, thinks such services may have helped when he was shot in the head at age 10. He was hospitalized for seven months with brain injuries and still struggles to control his emotions. He felt those closest to him couldn’t relate.

“I’m just angry because I got shot and I can’t live a normal life,” said McClain, now an antiviolence advocate who works at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center as a psych tech.

“You don’t know what I’m going through,” was his response when people tried to connect, “you never got shot before.”


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