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Hospitals Hope To Break Cycle Of Violence With Follow-Up Programs

Sammy Caiola

Esmeralda Huerta and Chevist Johnson will be deployed to the bedsides of young Oak Park patients who’ve been shot, stabbed and assaulted. They’ll provide casework and counseling for a one year after the injury.

Sammy Caiola

Youth who end up in the hospital after being shot, stabbed or beaten receive medical care — but they don’t always get the resources they need to cope with trauma.

At the UC Davis Medical Center, violence intervention specialists Esmeralda Huerta and Chevist Johnson are determined to intervene. “We send back youth to the community who have no follow up care, no one to talk to, no way of recovering,” Huerta said. “That’s not our goal.”

Huerta and Johnson will lead a new follow-up program, which offers mental-health counseling, gang intervention and other services to young patients who’ve been hospitalized by violence.

The program follows youth for a year after discharge, in the hopes of preventing a repeat injury. It targets 15- to 26-year-old patients who live in Oak Park

"Now, they can identify, these are specific triggers that allow me to behave in a certain way, or this is a specific environment that might not be safe or conducive to me growing as a person,” Chevist said.

The program launches with a $450,000, two-year grant from Kohl’s. It joins an existing program through WellSpace Health and Kaiser Permanente that provides these services to at-risk youth throughout the region.

Eli Calloway said the WellSpace program served as a lifeline after he was shot in both knees two years ago. He was visiting a friend in the Meadowview neighborhood who was entangled in conflict, and said he got caught in the crossfire.

He said if not for the visit from the violence intervention team, he would have left the hospital and sought revenge on the shooter. Instead, he did a lot of reflecting and eventually removed himself from the situation.

“It was a lot of follow ups after the hospital - them calling me, them stopping by, them checking out my wounds,” he said. “If they didn’t talk to me, I would have done something way different.”

Now 21, Calloway is working, and preparing to become a father this June.

DeAngelo Mack, who runs the WellSpace program, said it’s served more than 600 families since it launched eight years ago. It draws patients from all over the region, and not just from hospitals.

The new UC Davis wraparound program will only serve youth in Oak Park, the neighborhood surrounding the UC Davis Medical Center. Patients who live in other areas will continue to be referred to Mack’s organization.


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