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UMass to target victims of violence; Patrick initiative for public safety.

Byline: Milton J. Valencia

WORCESTER - Gov. Deval L. Patrick involved public health agencies in the fight against crime yesterday, announcing a new program to have hospitals interact with victims of violence.

Under the program, six hospitals will have intervention officials working with victims of violent crimes in hopes of stopping a pattern that sees them return to the streets only to come back to the hospital again.

"Public safety leaders will tell you we cannot arrest our way out of trouble," Mr. Patrick said. "Good public health and good public safety are about enforcement and prevention."

The program will be administered by the state Department of Public Health. Six hospitals across the state, including UMass Memorial Medical Center - University Campus, will each receive $100,000 to have intervention officials work with victims, similar to the way a specialist would counsel a victim of domestic violence or a patient with drug addiction.

Officials cited statistics showing that many victims of violent crime have been victims before, and that 40 percent of victims will return to the hospital within five years, while 20 percent of them will die, said state Secretary of Public Safety Kevin M. Burke.

In the meantime, patients receive no assistance in terms of counseling. They are treated and released.

"The approach to decreasing crime is not just through law enforcement," said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health. "It's a public health problem as well as a public safety problem.

"As a physician, I know all too well that patients are sewn up, patched up ... to be discharged with no attention to the issue of violence that actually brought them to the hospital."

Dr. Edward Boyer, an emergency room physician for UMass Memorial Medical Center - University Campus, said

insurance plans often force the quick discharge of patients, without any means of counseling.

Victims can suffer from gunshot or stab wounds or

blunt force trauma, but they leave the hospital under stress and depressed. Counselors will be able to work with them to help identify the issues that put them in the hospital in the first place, he said.

Mr. Patrick said the idea was part of his Anti-Crime Council, which met yesterday at the new Boys & Girls Club on Tainter Street. He said that the group realizes that violent crime needs tough law enforcement measures, but at the same time a proactive, community approach is needed to attack the root causes of violence.

"Addressing violent crime requires a comprehensive approach that includes early intervention and prevention," the governor said in a statement.



CUTLINE: Gov. Deval L. Patrick speaks yesterday at a press conference at the Boys & Girls Club in Worcester.
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Title Annotation:NEW ENGLAND
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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