AUSTIN (KXAN) — Curbing crime by meeting with violent crime victims while they’re in the hospital is a concept that aims to reduce retaliation and revictimization. It’s called a hospital-based violence intervention program, or HVIP.
Leaders in Travis County are in the early stages of a plan to bring such a program here. Harris County launched at its first hospital in November.
“Once we receive the call, we go and meet these victims and their families at bedside when they’re medically cleared,” said Lupe Washington, director of community health at Harris County Public Health. “We’re currently working with victims of gunshots, stabbings and aggravated assault.”
The program helps connect victims with immediate resources related to things like counseling, legal services, education, employment and housing.
This made a world of difference to Destin Henderson in Houston.
“I was involved in an act of violence where I had a traumatic brain injury,” he said, adding that he had a rough experience at the hospital. “They had the police monitor me. And I didn’t need that, I needed a person who had the expertise, that had the experience, that had the knowledge.”
That changed when he met his specialist with Harris County Public Health.
“I felt like she was actually there to help me,” he said.
Henderson said he’s doing “great” now, has a job and hopes to one day volunteer for the program that helped him get back on his feet.
The immediacy factor is the cornerstone.
“When we respond, we’re trying to prevent retaliations from happening,” said Washington. The other pillar – preventing revictimization by providing them with the aforementioned resources.
The procedural aspect of the program can vary. In the Harris County model, hospital staff inform patients about the program – and if the patients want the services, hospital staff call the “violence interrupters” at Harris County Public Health, and those specialists go to the hospital as soon as possible.
In Travis County, this program could serve as a bridge to the incoming Trauma Recovery Center (TRC).
Terra Tucker, who has spearheaded the TRC project, said the county matched the city’s funding at the end of April. She hopes to have it up and running within the year. The TRC provides similar resources as the HVIP, but the TRC is more focused on long-term assistance.
“Ultimately they could also then refer those victims to the Trauma Recovery Center,” said Tucker. “Individuals could go walk in the door who are survivors or victims of violent crime, regardless if they have a police report, and say ‘Hey I’m a victim I need help.’ And they would get access to case management, mental health services, therapy, substance use treatment, whatever it is that they need.”
In Harris County, Washington said the HVIP has served 44 patients since its November launch. She said it’s too early to see what impacted this is having on crime in the area, but after the program is around for a couple of years, her team will take a look at crime data to determine the level of influence.