The number of people going to the hospital with violent-crime related injuries is on the rise. It’s an alarming trend. That’s why UCHealth said it's expanding its hospital-based violence intervention program in hopes those numbers start to slow down.
“I’ve been here seven years and every quarter I’ve been here, our volume has been here tremendously,” said Medical Director of At-Risk Intervention and Mentoring Program at UCHealth Catherine Velopulos.
Dr. Catherine Velopulos is talking about the number of people showing up UCHealth’s University of Colorado Hospital’s ER with violent crime-related injuries.
Back in 2020, Dr. Velopulos says the ER had a total of 153 patients suffering from gunshot wounds or stabbings. However this year, that number went up 82 percent to 278 patients being admitted.
“There’s been a lot of growth in Denver, there has been a lot of development within the Denver metro area that is displacing people and it’s making people more vulnerable,” said Dr. Velopulos.
Dr. Velopulos says the hospital is expanding its At-Risk Intervention and Mentoring Program, known as AIM, to try and slowdown that trend. They’re able to do that with the help of federal funding provided by the substance abuse and mental health services administration.
Here’s how the program works.
“A trauma activation comes in, I respond immediately, I come down here and start dealing with the physical aspects of it,” said Dr. Velopulos.
Then, the outreach worker comes into the picture. They’re contracted through the Gang Rescue and Support Project, a Denver-based intervention program.
“That can be trying to gauge what happened, seeing what services they need, that can be victims’ rights, they may need assistance through the DPD, or housing, substance abuse. All kinds of different things,” said Lawrence Goshon an Outreach Worker with the At-Risk Intervention and Mentoring Program.
The program doesn't end when the victim leaves the hospital. An outreach worker can continue meeting with the patient in the community for as long as they want. The goal here is to prevent victims from winding up back in the ER.
“Most people of violence become victims again and statistically by the third time they’re injured, they’re dead,” said Dr. Velopulos.
Goshon says he learned the hard way after getting in trouble with the law a few times until he decided it was time to turn his life around, which is how he ended up becoming an outreach worker with AIM, with the goal of providing hope to others.
“A lot of the violence I feel like in the community is done out of a need to fit in and be popular. Once people understand they can acquire the same things then they’ll stop doing these things,” said Goshon.
UCHealth says the AIM Program actually began at Denver Health before coming to UCHealth’s University of Colorado Hospital.
UCHealth has two outreach workers but that will expand to four and the program will soon be expanding over to Children’s Hospital Colorado as well.