Durbin: Congress Must Address Gun Violence In America

Durbin highlights public health strategies, progress of Chicago HEAL Initiative

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor on the need to address gun violence in America through steps like cracking down on straw purchases of firearms and ensuring members of law enforcement have the right tools and resources to protect our communities. As part of that comprehensive approach, Durbin also highlighted his Chicago Hospital Engagement, Action, and Leadership (HEAL) Initiative, which was launched in 2018 by Durbin and 10 of the largest hospitals serving Chicago. The HEAL Initiative is a collaboration to address the root causes of gun violence through economic, health, and community projects in 18 of Chicago’s neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence, poverty, and inequality.

Durbin said, “That gunshot patient in the emergency room?  Hospitals are no longer just stitching up their physical wounds, they also are addressing the emotional scars to prevent retaliations. Last year, 3,000 victims were paired with counselors and case workers. Without those interventions, we know that nearly half of those gunshot victims would be back in the hospital within five years.”

The HEAL Initiative invests in our communities and workforce. Over the last three years, hospitals increased new hires from Chicago’s South and West Side zip codes—which face the highest rates of poverty and violence—by 21 percent. Durbin also spoke on the trauma of witnessing gun violence. These 10 hospitals are bringing their medical expertise into the community to help our children cope with traumatic experiences.

Durbin also highlighted his bipartisan legislation—the Resilience Investment, Support, and Expansion (RISE) from Trauma Act. The RISE from Trauma Act dramatically increases funding for community-based efforts to prevent and mitigate the impact of trauma, and expands training and workforce development efforts to support health care, education, social service, first responders, and community leaders to foster resilience and deliver services to heal the impact of trauma.

Durbin continued, “It breaks my heart to see what’s happening in Chicago…We have to do more, at every single level. Let’s start with what the HEAL Initiative is doing – bringing some hope to the lives of folks, giving them an opportunity for a decent-paying job, letting them have an affordable place to live that is safe from gunshots and other threats.”

Last week, the Senate filled a critical law enforcement vacancy in Chicago, confirming Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds to be Chicago’s next U.S. Marshal. That seat had been vacant since 2018.   

Durbin concluded, “All of us need to pull together—families, schools, community organizations, law enforcement, the public health community, faith leaders, the business community, and more. I’m glad that the HEAL Initiative is a start in that direction but we’ve got more work to do—and we cannot allow the pettiness of Washington politics to stand in the way.”

To meaningfully support the work of the hospitals, Durbin, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked to ensure the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Omnibus appropriations bill included significant resources for programs in Chicago that fund community mental health, housing, job training, and violence prevention.

Durbin recently joined hospital leaders and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association to unveil the three-year report of the Chicago HEAL Initiative and announce new federal investments to help reduce violence and health disparities. Since HEAL launched in 2018, the ten hospitals hired an average of 3,535 individuals from HEAL neighborhoods each year, a 21% increase compared to 2018; provided workforce development programs to an average of 6,072 high school and college students from HEAL neighborhoods—a 28% increase since 2018; delivered post-injury trauma recovery programs to an annual average of 4,212 victims of violence—a 130% increase since 2018; and trained 3,571 hospital staff to screen patients for social determinants of health needs, a 242% increase since 2018.

 Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.