Jefferson Hospital's chaplaincy program has been awarded a $244,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation to help counter violence in Southeast Philadelphia neighborhoods as part of the Jefferson Community Violence Prevention Partnership.
The grant is the result of a joint effort by Jefferson and United Communities Southeast Philadelphia (UCSP) to develop a program connecting victims of violence and other violent-prone young people with the existing network of community-based resources located within their own communities.
United Communities Southeast Philadelphia, a United Way agency, is a community-based multi-service settlement agency providing social service, education, youth development and housing programs to Southeast Philadelphia neighborhoods.
While the collaboration between Jefferson and UCSP forms the core of the partnership program, many other neighborhood programs, organizations and volunteer groups will be involved to provide at-risk young people with a range of community-based supports to help them overcome tendencies toward violence.
The program will identify at-risk youth by targeting assault victims between ages 16 and 24 brought to Jefferson's Emergency Department and Trauma Center. The new program's goal is to reduce episodes of repeat and retaliatory violence by and toward young victims of intentional violence.
Jefferson's Pastoral Care and Education Program, directed by Rev. Joseph Leggieri, PhD, will be able to provide counseling to some of these young men and women in their own neighborhoods.
"We want to provide a support system trusting enough for patients to express what the violence has done to them," says Rev. Leggieri. "It will help young people see a different and better way of life. That alone can go a long way to help them deal with violence."
"This kind of program is needed because when young people's lives are devoured by violence, and cease to be productive, it puts a tremendous drain on the community and society at large," he says. "It's a huge social problem."
The program will stress increasing referrals of at-risk victims to counseling and other community resources as well as improving communication between healthcare providers and young victims of assault.
Social Workers Also Involved
The violence prevention program also calls for the close involvement of Hospital social workers, adds Joan Tannebaum, Director of Jefferson's Department of Social Work.
"It will give us a chance to intervene in a different way," Ms. Tannebaum points out. "It's a new way for us to follow up and coordinate what happens to these patients, so that, hopefully, they won't return to our Emergency Department under similar circumstances."
Under the program, to begin this summer, a group of six chaplains, including community clergy and religious laypersons, will be recruited from Southeast Philadelphia neighborhoods to enroll in Jefferson's Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program. As part of that curriculum, the chaplains will participate in the violence program and offer emotional and spiritual support to every victim or perpetrator, as well as to their families, treated at the hospital's Emergency Department.
If the victim or perpetrator is admitted, a chaplain will attempt to see that patient on a daily basis, if only to offer a daily greeting, in order to keep a rapport going with the patient.
Once the patient is discharged, the chaplain will keep in regular contact with community persons or agencies to help provide social services assistance.