Healing Hurt People Chicago Recognized for 10 Years of Work in Hospital-based Intervention

Today, June 2, Cook County leaders gathered to commemorate Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Day.

Wear Orange Day began on June 2, 2015 – what would have been Hadiya Pendleton’s 18th birthday. Hadiya Pendleton was a Chicago resident who was killed by gun violence in 2013. Soon after this tragedy, her friends decided to commemorate her life by wearing orange, the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others.

On Friday, Cook County commemorated the day by discussing gun violence prevention, along with work being done to help those impacted by violence.

“We know that to solve the gun violence crisis in this country, it requires approaching the problem from various avenues and I am grateful to those gathered here who have dedicated themselves in service of saving lives, in one form or another,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.

“As we continue to see, gun violence affects everyone in this country, and here at Cook County Health, we have been at the forefront of referring to gun violence as a public health emergency,” Cook County Health CEO Israel Rocha said. “We come together today to celebrate survivorship and the work being done to help those impacted while recognizing we have work to do – and that we need to do it together.”

Cook County Health’s trauma department, the oldest comprehensive trauma unit in the country, has cared for more than 340 victims of gun violence in 2023. In 2022, more than 930 were cared for, including 117 under the age of 18.

“More Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2021 than in any other year on record,” Cook County Chair of Trauma and Burn Services Dr. Faran Bokhari said. “Gun violence is increasing across the country, and our trauma team has become far too skilled at putting bodies back together after devastating gun injuries. “

In addition to Cook County Health helping patients recover physically from traumatic injury, this year marks the 10th anniversary of Healing Hurt People Chicago (HHPC), a program to help people heal emotionally and mentally. HHPC is a hospital-based, youth advocacy program for violence recovery that provides crisis intervention, mental health care, medical advocacy, practical support, and a supportive community where people who have been violently injured can thrive.

HHPC offers bedside services in the trauma units of John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital and The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. Since its founding in 2013, HHPC has provided direct services to more than 3,300 patients, ranging from ages 1 to 30, along with their families. Most of these patients received support while in the hospital or immediately after. A subset receive ongoing, community-based intensive case management services.

Thanks to additional funding, including from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan (ARPA), the program hopes to increase its capacity to serve 700 individuals each year.

“HHPC participants show us every day that when young people have access to the resources and the support they need to recover from trauma, they can do amazing things,” Dr. Brad Stolbach, co-founder of Healing Hurt People Chicago and Director of University of Chicago Medicine’s REACT Program. “Getting to witness that is a gift to those of us lucky enough to play even a small part in it. We look forward to a time when this kind of care is routine for those most harmed by our collective failure to create the safety and protection they deserve.”

“Healing Hurt People Chicago’s team of professionals embody these principles of trauma recovery: Relationships matter, love matters, consistency matters,” Rev. Carol Reese, Program Director, Healing Hurt People Chicago and Violence Prevention Coordinator, Cook County Health. “We began with one staff person and have slowly grown our team to a group of 15. Thanks to funding from Cook County and ARPA we have the opportunity to hire another 10 people.”

Executive Director of the Cook County Justice Advisory Council (JAC) Avik Das spoke about the group’s commitment to addressing the drivers of gun violence. On Thursday, the JAC announced an additional $10 million in grants to community-based service providers as part of the County’s Gun Violence Prevention and Reduction Grant Initiative.

“We are proud to be supporting a wide array of programs that work to break cycles of trauma and violence, ultimately saving lives,” said Avik Das. “In total, our Gun Violence Prevention and Reduction Grant initiative is a historic $110 million investment that supports 150 unique organizations working in communities in Chicago and Cook County that experience the highest rates of gun violence. Through this initiative, we are building a more peaceful future by investing in people, families and entire communities.”