Durbin And Major Chicago Hospitals Join Forces On Community Initiative To Reduce Violence

Sparked by Durbin, Chicago HEAL Initiative hospitals to lead groundbreaking collaboration & neighborhood investment, programming

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined hospital and community leaders to announce a groundbreaking new initiative bringing together 10 of the largest hospitals serving Chicago aimed at reducing violence and improving health in Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods.  The Chicago HEAL (Hospital Engagement, Action, and Leadership) Initiative is a collaboration between major Chicago hospitals, convened and supported by Durbin, to make tangible commitments to reduce gun violence, heal the physical and mental trauma that violence inflicts on victims, increase well-paying jobs and create other economic opportunities in the neighborhoods they serve.

“Not only do Chicago’s world class hospitals care for physical wounds and mental health challenges inflicted by violence, they are very often the largest employers and the most powerful drivers of economic opportunity in their neighborhoods.  What I learned from months of meetings and conversations is that these hospitals are already strongly invested in making the people and neighborhoods they serve healthier and safer.  But it was also clear that these hospitals can make an even bigger impact by working together towards common goals,” said Durbin.  “The Chicago HEAL Initiative is a special collaboration and my role is not just to be a supportive partner, convener, and advocate, I will also assist these hospitals and our communities by fighting for access to health care and increasing federal resources for Chicago.”

The 10 hospitals initially involved in Chicago HEAL are among the largest serving Chicago:

  • Advocate Christ Medical Center
  • AMITA Health’s Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center          
  • Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago 
  • Cook County Health and Hospital System
  • Loyola University Medical Center
  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital
  • Rush University Medical Center
  • Sinai Health System
  • University of Chicago Medical Center
  • University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences Systems

While these hospitals traditionally are competitors, under HEAL, each of these 10 hospitals is committing publicly to work together, and with a broad range of community organizations, to do more to tackle the root causes of gun violence.  HEAL is premised on the notion that truly reducing violence requires more than just world-class health care in the hospital setting to treat physical wounds—but a community-focused prevention strategy that recognizes hospitals as often the largest employers and leaders of neighborhood initiatives to address underlying root causes. 

To make a Chicago better for everyone, HEAL is focusing on 18 Chicago neighborhoods most plagued by violence, inequality, and poverty, including: Auburn Gresham; Brighton Park; Greater Englewood; Fuller Park; Gage Park; Grand Boulevard; Greater Grand Crossing; New City/Back of the Yards; Altgeld Gardens; South Chicago; South Shore; Washington Park; Austin; East Garfield Park; Humboldt Park; North Lawndale; South Lawndale/Little Village; and West Garfield Park.

The formal inception of the Chicago HEAL Initiative began in January 2018 when Durbin convened a meeting between hospital executives to discuss how they can better coordinate efforts to reduce violence.  The Chicago HEAL Initiative reflects months of community feedback on what residents want to see from leading institutions and provides a roadmap for sustained, coordinated effort to do better.  To be accountable to the community, there will be annual reports and community events.

As part of the Chicago HEAL Initiative, each hospital commits to individually achieve—or partner together and with other stakeholders to collectively address—the following priority targets and best practices over the next three years:

 1.      Increase Local Workforce Commitment to Reduce Economic Hardship

  • Compared to current levels, target a 15 percent increase in hiring out of the 18 target communities
  • Compared to current levels, target a 20 percent increase in purchasing relevant supplies and services from local suppliers
  • Develop career advancement and growth opportunities to foster local workforce retention
  • Create additional youth summer employment, workforce development, and apprenticeships programs (including through existing corporate networks and City Colleges) to promote careers in health care fields and paraprofessional roles (e.g., case workers, community health workers) to students in target neighborhoods

 2.      Support Community Partnerships to Improve Health and Safety of Public Environments

  • Deliver trauma-informed, community-based counseling and peer support services across all target neighborhoods, including through home visiting programs, case management, youth mentorship programs, and violence interruption programming
  • Promote co-location of behavioral health services, including by partnering with federally qualified health centers and schools to open new clinics in target neighborhoods
  • Improve physical neighborhood vitality by supporting affordable housing pilot programs for the homeless, housing renovations, restoration of vacant lots, and community garden development
  • Establish Safe Haven, Safe Passage routes, and gun-free zones surrounding hospital-owned buildings and facilities
  • Hold community health fairs and other summer and night-time events at City parks and community centers to increase access to wraparound services and reduce violence

 3.      Prioritize Key In-Hospital Clinical Practices to Address Unmet Needs

  • Train all hospital intake staff and primary care practitioners in behavioral health and trauma screenings, and communicating with patients on firearm safety
  • Establish trauma-informed post-injury counseling and community case management programs to support long-term healing for all appropriate victims of violence
  • Compared to current levels, reduce opioid prescribing rates by 20 percent—to help prevent potential drug misuse and addiction
  • Compared to current levels, increase lead poisoning screening rates for Medicaid/CHIP-eligible children by 15 percent—to mitigate neurological and developmental harms
  • Develop common data sharing infrastructure and platforms across hospitals and with relevant stakeholders to coordinate services, identify trends, and improve patient care, including exploration of models with City databases and agencies
  • Participate in the Chicago Gun Violence Research Collaborative to expand violence prevention research network and agenda to additional sites with at least five new projects citywide
  • Participate in the Illinois Perinatal Quality Collaborative and provide implicit bias and cultural competency training to providers—to help reduce racial disparities in health outcomes and strengthen families

What Chicago HEAL member hospitals are saying:

“Advocate Health Care serves the community by investing in long-term economic and workforce development programs, violence prevention initiatives and health equity solutions. Through Senator Durbin’s leadership, we are coming together as a city-wide hospital coalition to partner more deeply and collaboratively with our local communities by leveraging our strengths and innovative programs to address these paramount issues. Advocate’s commitments will serve as valuable assets within Chicago HEAL,” said Matthew Primack, president of Advocate Christ Medical Center.

“We look forward to working alongside Chicago health care providers and serving as catalysts in bringing about healthy change in the diverse communities we are privileged to serve,” stated Martin Judd, Regional President and CEO, Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center. “We share Senator Durbin’s vision for a Chicago that not only sees a dramatic decrease in gun violence, but also sees improvement in the overall health and safety of our neighborhoods.” 

“Tackling the public health crisis of intentional gun violence requires the collective, concerted and sustained efforts of all Chicago institutions,” said Kenneth Polonsky, MD, executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Chicago Medicine and dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine. “Building on our commitment to the health, wellness and safety of our South Side communities, the University of Chicago Medicine strongly supports the strategic vision of Senator Durbin’s Chicago HEAL initiative and its mission to address the epidemic of gun violence, its root causes, and actionable solutions.”

"Hospitals are doing a remarkable job treating gunshot victims, saving many lives that previously would have been lost," said Mark Cichon, DO, FACEP, FACOP, Professor and Chair, Emergency Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and Division Director, Emergency Medical Services. "But we can do more. Gun violence is a public health epidemic, and we need to address it with a scientific approach that includes more research into how to prevent gun violence.”

“Just as physicians address the causes of an illness and not just the symptoms, hospitals are community anchors and well positioned to address the social and economic  root causes of violence,“ said Dr. Larry Goodman, CEO of the Rush system and of Rush University Medical Center.  “And  the economic development needed in our neighborhoods to help stem the violence we see today demands action as a whole city, working together.  Rush and its West Side United partners are proud to be part of that effort. 

"CCHHS has long been the largest provider of trauma care in the state of Illinois. Over the past several years we have made a concerted effort to deploy prevention strategies for our impacted patients and their community but we know there is strength in numbers. Today’s collective recognition and individual commitment is very promising. We are immensely grateful for Senator Durbin’s leadership and look forward to working together to address the drivers that lead to violence,” said Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO of Cook County Health & Hospitals System.

“UI Health has a special focus on uncovering and addressing the social determinants of health that affect our patients, and violence is one of those determinants that has an impact not just on individuals, but on communities,” said Mike Zenn, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics. “UI Health recently established the Center for Health Equity Research to investigate how various social structures and determinants, including violence, contribute to the health of marginalized groups. We expect the Center, as well as several of our other programs focused on the social determinants of health, including our Better Health Through Housing program, will be valuable contributors to the Chicago HEAL Initiative.”

“Sinai Health System is honored to be a partner in the Chicago HEAL initiative to tackle the critical public health issue of gun violence. It is an opportunity to expand and build upon the work we've already been doing through Sinai Urban Health Institute and Sinai Community Institute to proactively address the challenges our communities face and help change the trajectory for those facing issues before they end up caught in the cycle of violence. We applaud Senator Durbin for bringing together some of the top institutions in the City to harness our collective power and expertise to confront this plague head-on,” said Karen Teitelbaum, president and CEO of Sinai Health System.

“Health is more than healthcare. To truly improve the health of Chicago’s children, we need to make our neighborhoods safer and give children and families the best opportunity to thrive,” said Patrick M. Magoon, president and CEO of Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “We’ve made an institutional commitment toward violence prevention and launched Strengthening Chicago’s Youth. SCY is a collaborative that serves as a catalyst for developing models for violence reduction, including a model that gives juvenile offenders a second chance by offering comprehensive services such as workforce development, mentoring and counseling versus detention.”