By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Offender Alumni Association (OAA) will run a county-wide violence intervention program for victims of gun violence, the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) has announced.
OAA is a Birmingham-based nonprofit founded in 2014 which provides support for individuals formerly incarcerated.
Dr. Mark Wilson, Jefferson County Health Officer, said the hospital-linked Violence Intervention Program (HVIP), will pair case workers with victims of gun violence, soon after the victims’ admissions to hospitals. Wilson has said the program could help break “the cycle of violence.”
“[The hospital] is a setting and a time that offers a unique opportunity to intervene in the victim’s life,” Wilson said, “reducing the chances of them becoming a repeat victim of violence and to help prevent retaliation.”
The four goals of the HVIP are reduce subsequent acts of violence; improve physical and mental health outcomes; enhance educational attainment and improve employability and employments status.
The case workers will provide victims with access to social, medical and mental health services, including drug rehabilitation, mentoring and relocation services. The health department is treating “violence as a public health crisis” and partnering with OAA and other groups to help stem violence.
“We are glad to get to this step in the process, and we look forward to taking the next steps with OAA as our partner,” Wilson said.
Deborah Daniels, founder and executive director of OAA, said the organization is “honored, humbled and grateful” to be involved with the program.
“OAA is ready to be there in real time as individuals are being victimized, to be a source of comfort as well as a resource to help them move past the pain, the hurt and the trauma of violence,” said Daniels, who added that everyone has a responsibility to find ways to reduce violence in Birmingham.
“All of us—our government officials, community stakeholders, partners and neighbors—have lots of work to do to make our neighborhoods safer, and places where our children to have an opportunity to thrive,” she said.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital will be the pilot facility for the program. The UAB Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery will identify and refer consenting patients who have survived violent injury from gunshot to the HVIP while the patient is still in the hospital.
OAA will be responsible for hiring, supporting and managing the case workers, as well as a full-time violence intervention supervisor and a full-time licensed social worker/social services specialist to provide program management and to direct client assessment and intervention planning.
The Health Alliance for Violence Intervention (HAVI), a national organization, was brought in by JCDH to assist in planning the HVIP, and will continue to provide training and technical assistance to OAA and its new HVIP staff as the program is developed and implemented.
OAA is receiving a $1.1 million grant from a JCDH fund with the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to operate the program. If the program is successful after the one year, JCDH will continue financial support.
In December, Birmingham City Council approved a plan to use $2.1 million in federal COVID relief money to fund subsequent years of the program.