Healthcare News & Insights

Community violence: How hospitals can address its costs

Community violence can be an enormous burden on hospitals, especially in urban areas and big cities. But some facilities are using innovative programs to cut down on violence and decrease the number of patients who come in with violent injuries – which also lowers costs for complex, life-saving surgeries. 

A report commissioned by the American Hospital Association found that hospitals spent $2.7 billion last year alone on violence-related costs. Most of that money went toward treating victims, boosting security and training.

Low-income communities often bear the brunt of this violence, and because payment rates are lower for Medicare and Medicaid than private payors, this can leave hospitals on the hook for high costs, according to Hospitals & Health Networks (H&HN) magazine.

Beyond the cost for hospitals, estimates say that violence leads to 55,000 deaths each year and 2.5 million people injured. And many people injured due to violence go on to perpetrate violence in the future or become victims themselves.

Not all communities need intervention programs within their hospitals, but for those that do, H&HN has nine general steps facilities can take to break the cycle of violence:

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Pinpoint risk and resilience factors.
  3. Identify community partners.
  4. Prioritize needs.
  5. Determine the target population.
  6. Identify resources.
  7. Assess the hospital’s role.
  8. Plan interventions.
  9. Measure results.

Some hospitals have already gotten on board with these steps, developing intervention programs to decrease the violence in their communities.

Mentors help break the cycle

Making the investment in intervention programs can reduce the likelihood that facilities will have to provide costly, complicated surgeries to victims later on.

One example of this can be found at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where its intervention program is in its fourth year. As a result, recurrence rates of violent injuries for children in the program have decreased.

Margie Batek, the supervisor of social work at the hospital, told H&HN that children who complete the program have a recurrence rate of less than 1% for violent incidents. In contrast, those who don’t participate in the program face recidivism rates of 20%.

The program connects youths ages 8 to 19 who have been shot, stabbed or assaulted with mentors who help them try to break the cycle of violence.

When children enter the emergency department with violent injuries, a social worker approaches them and their families to talk about the program. If a child decides to participate, the social worker links him or her up with a mentor. That mentor is on call 24/7, and both mentor and mentee meet up regularly for one year to establish goals and make a plan to avoid violence.

Other types of violence

Besides helping victims of violence, facilities must also be on the lookout for violent behavior targeting their own staff. Workplace violence is on the rise within hospitals – and Healthcare Business Tech has some advice about defusing violent situations.

Ultimately, hospitals are important places for communities. And helping members of those communities (including staff) avoid violence of all types benefits everyone in the end.

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