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ER Becomes Turning Point For Young Victims

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Learn more about Capital Public Radio's upcoming documentary An Ounce of Prevention here

One of the medical facilities using this model is a Trauma Center that opened nearly two years ago in a high-crime section of Sacramento. South Sacramento's "Mack Road Corridor" has some of the city's highest rates of violent crimes.

Dr. Maya Leggett: "Hi, I'm Maya Leggett. I'm a trauma surgeon at South Sacramento Kaiser. It's relatively quite right now. I mean it's Friday and it's gorgeous out…we might be due."

Anyone who gets shot or stabbed in South Sacramento ends up here in the ER. Their first stop is the ER's Resuscitation Room.

"You urgently are trying to get them to the next step whether that be the operating room or whatever it may be, you know, to take care of them."

Last year in this Resuscitation Room, there were nearly 130 patients with gunshot or stab wounds. Half of them were between the ages of 15 and 24. According to Kaiser Permanente Trauma Services, 35 of those young patients had gunshot wounds, 28 of them had stab wounds.

LeAndre Williams: "I was stabbed in my side, and I was stabbed in my left eye leaving me legally blind, I can't see out of it anymore."

The stabbing happened in South Sacramento on a Thursday night last October just before the 18th birthday of this aspiring rap music star.  

"My name is LeAndre Williams but in the music world I go by YungDre. You know, rapping's always been one of my dreams."

Williams wears his hair in long cornrows, sports a sparse goatee and a black patch over his left eye socket.

"I wasn't really a bad kid. I wasn't into gang-bangin'.

Steve Milne: "How did you end up in the hospital?"

"I was doing something wrong. I knew it wasn't right but I was still doing it."

Williams says he doesn't remember the pain of being stabbed…that came later.  

"At the time, just kind of went numb. Recovery hurt more than actually getting stabbed."

And in those moments of pain, while they're still recovering in their hospital beds, Dr. Maya Leggett says, that's when the Sacramento Violence Intervention Program, or SVIP, steps in.

"The reason we try to get them the earlier the better, is it's capturing that moment of vulnerability…having that life flash before your eyes kind of thing."

DeAngelo Mack: "My name is DeAngelo Mack and I'm an Interventionist Specialist for the Sacramento Violence Intervention Program. What happens is, we get a phone call from the Emergency Room and we come down and do a bedside."

Although still groggy at the time, LeAndre Williams says SVIP sounded good. 

"I just seen people that were trying to help me. DeAngelo's been the one that I've been connecting with the most."

DeAngelo Mack works for a Sacramento social service agency called The Effort which teamed with Kaiser to create SVIP.  

"In 2010 some statistics showed that the Center Parkway and Mack Road Corridor was the number one location for homicides in Sacramento. So the city decided that something needed to be done, The Effort decided that something needed to be done and Kaiser, being in the community and building their new trauma center decided something needed to be done. And so they decided to plan it here."

Mack and another Intervention Specialist share a total of 36 clients…nearly all of them young men. Mack and his colleague promote positive alternatives to violence and coordinate services for youth and their families by providing information, referrals and intensive follow-up services for up to one-year.

"Having some other person to turn to gives them a choice. We're a program that walks into a hospital room and says 'I don't know you, you don't know me, but what can I do to help?'"

Accepting that help has put LeAndre Williams in the right path to stay out of trouble…

"I got stabbed yeah, but I'm not going to let that stop me. I'm focusing on getting my school work done and get my diploma, start going to college."

LeAndre Williams says he is pain-free now though he still needs a glass eye. And he occasional goes back to the hospital for follow-up appointments. Dr. Maya Leggett has been keeping track of his recovery.

"We've been able to see him a couple of times in clinic here. He's a good kid. He's working hard on a lot of stuff."

Leggett says she has personal reasons for being a part of SVIP: her two little kids.

"You do this job for community reasons but you do them for personal reasons too. I want to make it better for my kids."

SVIP is funded through next year by a grant from Kaiser's Community Benefits Program. The Effort is also looking for long-term sources of financial sustainability for its participation in the SVIP.

Other hospital-based violence intervention programs similar to SVIP are operating at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and Highlands Hospital in Oakland.

This story is part of an hour-long special produced by Capital Public Radio called "An Ounce of Prevention" which airs this Friday at 10 AM and 8 PM.


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