CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The City of Charleston’s Health and Wellness Committee is taking on the issue of gun violence in the community with assistance from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). The Medical University says they are hoping their new program can combat the issue of reoccurring offenders and patients suffering injuries from gun violence.
Right now, gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in our state, and MUSC officials say we are also dealing with it here in the City of Charleston.
Dr. Ashley Hink, with the Medical University of South Carolina, said just last week, she had 5 victims show up at the same time. She said one died and they were all young individuals, some in their teens and others in their twenties.
When the gun violence victims come into the hospital is when Dr. Hink says the MUSC Hospital and Community Violence Prevention and Intervention Program comes in. That program consists of a team of men serving as advocates for those impacted by gun violence.
Dr. Hink says the advocates work alongside other community groups and police. The program demonstrates reduced repeat injury, reduced recidivism, and improves social and economic outcomes for individuals.
She says for these gentlemen, Program Director Ronald Dickerson, Ph.D. MSW and violence intervention advocates Keith Smalls and Donnie Singleton, when they show up they put together an action plan for the patients and for the families: employment, housing, mentorship, helping get an ID, leaving a gang, whatever it is that they need. From their assessment, they put together action plans to help address the underlying risks and roots of violence in addition to sending anti-retaliation messages.
It’s a program, Dr. Hink is hoping to get more funding for to ensure those who end up in the hospital don’t end up back in a cycle of violence.
Mayor John Tecklenburg with the City of Charleston says through his office of Children and Families, they have programs already in place to mentor and influence youth to which he believes should be supported. He says now, “16/18-year-old kids if you will, unfortunately, are at the point where they are as hardened as you can imagine”.
The Charleston Police Department (CPD) says they are for more programs as it helps their investigations and the community.
Jack Weiss, the Deputy Chief of Investigation Bureau for CPD says the police can’t do it all. And while they too have countless community programs through CPD, they say it helps to have agencies who are not law enforcement assisting their cause of safety.
People still you know, can have a wall between law enforcement and the community. So other groups that can be an intermediary and be that point of contact and if they can turn one young person’s life around, then that’s a win for all of us.Jack Weiss, Deputy Chief of Investigation Bureau CPD
As for funding for the MUSC-based program, the committee advised Dr. Hink of the next City Council meeting for a presentation to acquire funds through the American rescue plan. Dr. Hink says she has already met with the City of North Charleston to request one-third of the funding needed to which they are considering.
For more on the program, click here.