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We wear orange for a future free of gun violence

We wear orange for a future free of gun violence

Today, officials from the City of New Orleans, University Medical Center, and community stakeholders marked National Gun Violence Awareness Day, also known as Wear Orange Day, by discussing the impact of gun violence in the community and providing an update on the expansion of trauma recovery services and the relaunch of the Hospital-Based Violence Intervention program at University Medical Center.

Watch the full press conference.

“Our city has one of the highest rates of gun-related homicides and assaults in the nation, with homicide rates multiple times the national average,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director of the New Orleans Health Department. “In order to sustainably and comprehensively stop the epidemic of violence, we need evidence-based, comprehensive programs, policies and initiatives that create an ecosystem of prevention and is sustainable for generations to come.”

Wear Orange Day is a national campaign that raises awareness of gun violence and its impact on communities. Several locations in New Orleans will participate with orange lights on June 2, including the Caesars Superdome, Hibernia Bank Building, and the University Medical Center towers.

New Orleans recorded more than 280 homicides in 2022, the highest number of killings in a single year in 26 years. The city also had the highest murder rate of any large city in the United States, with 70 homicides for every 100,000 residents.

The City of New Orleans is partnering with University Medical Center to expand its trauma recovery services and to relaunch the Hospital-based Violence Intervention program at UMC. to “University Medical Center sees itself as a community partner in addressing the effects of gun violence,” said Charlotte Parent, Vice President of Business Development at University Medical Center. “While we treat physical injuries, our employees and providers feel strongly that we should also find ways to treat the emotional issues that go hand in hand with violence. We are proud to partner with the City of New Orleans to address this issue and provide comprehensive care to those who have been affected by gun violence.”

Dr. Sharven Taghavi, a Tulane trauma surgeon at UMC, said, “As a trauma surgeon, I’m proud to participate in this movement to call for an end to gun violence. We’re fortunate to have a Level 1 Trauma Center that’s been able to save most gunshot victims that we care for. However, victims of gun violence often suffer from serious injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and amputations. They also experience many other long-term effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Dr. Annelies De Wulf, an LSU Emergency Medicine physician at UMC, said, “We are faced with a crisis. When faced with a crisis, it’s all handson deck, and we have to work together. We at UMC, in partnership with the New Orleans Health Department, are excited to bring back a Hospital Based Violence Intervention Program to UMC. This work counts on credible messengers, real people that people in our community can relate to, to interact with individuals who are hurt and their families to immediately interrupt cycles of retaliatory violence. They will also work in teams to work with individuals who have been shot to promote physical and emotional healing and reduce the risk of them being shot again. In this way UMC will do their part to integrate holistic healing into the care plan of our patients who have been injured due to gun violence. This is one small but essential piece of a greater strategy and the ecosystem of violence prevention and intervention to build a safer and healthier city.”

Dr. Erika Rajo, LSUHSC Clinical Psychologist and Director of UMC’s Trauma Recovery Clinic, said, “Exposure to interpersonal violence, whether direct or indirect, can have lasting effects on someone’s physical and emotional health. Not receiving some form of effective treatment after a traumatic violent injury can result in the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, social isolation, and increased alcohol or substance use.

“Our mission is to promote healing among those in our community who have experienced trauma, violence, and loss by reducing barriers to specialized mental health services that are trauma-informed, evidence-based and delivered with compassion.”

Currently, the UMC Trauma Recovery Clinic offers therapy, medication management, and support groups. We’re excited that we will be expanding to a Trauma Recovery Center that will open in Summer 2023. The new Center will offer comprehensive, wraparound services, including assertive outreach, clinical case management, and legal advocacy.

“We hope that the Trauma Recovery Center will be a place where trauma survivors and their loved ones can begin their healing journey and restore hope in their futures and the future of our community,” Dr. Rajo said.