Safe Streets

Safe Streets

Can Hopkins ED Staff Help Curb Baltimore’s Violent Crime?
by Susan Middaugh

What do you say to the victim of a stabbing or shooting? How can you hope to dissuade them or their families from reciprocating?

Marla Johnston, MSN, RN, helps reduce violence through Baltimore City’s Safe Streets program.

“First, acknowledge their anger and their pain,” said Marla Johnston, MSN, RN, adult trauma performance improve-ment/injury prevention coordinator at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Then discuss the consequences of a violent response and other alternatives.”

The Baltimore resident credits her participation in the city’s Safe Streets program with giving her this vocabulary. And she needs it: approximately 15 patients a month enter her unit through the Emergency Department because of violent injuries. As a result of her coaching, one of them said he planned to get a job and earn his GED instead of retaliating.

Safe Streets was launched three years ago by the Baltimore City Health Department to reduce shootings and homicides in specific neighborhoods. In August 2009, Safe Streets expanded to the JHH Emergency Department. If the victim of a gunshot wounds lives within a specific geographic area in East Baltimore, social workers stationed in the ED are on call 16 hours a day to act as liaisons between the hospital, the victim, and Safe Streets responders who are well-versed in conflict resolution and promoting choices other than retaliation. Emergency Service Coordinators in the ED and Pastoral Care at Hopkins coordinate with these outreach workers at other times.

“Shootings bring out a strong emotional response,” said Carol Stansbury, LCSW-C, director of social work at JHH, who spent months planning the hospital’s partnership with Safe Streets with Kathy Noll, MSN ’02, adult trauma program manager at JHH, and Paula Justice, RN, project manager for the ED. “Safe Streets’ outreach workers add another level of resources to patients and their families.”

Johnston agreed. She’s participated in events where Safe Streets responders have rallied neighborhoods touched by violence to send a clear message that such behavior is unacceptable. That’s why she nominated Safe Streets for this year’s Maryland Injury Prevention Award from the Partnership for a Safer Maryland, where she is a member of the steering committee. They won.

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