Atrium Health explores solutions as gun violence overwhelms hospital, community

The hospital system is starting a violence intervention program after years of gun violence escalation in Charlotte.
In just the last two months, WBTV has reported on 12 homicides, the majority stemming from gun violence.
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 6:16 AM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Gun violence is something that takes a toll on a community.

What many don’t always realize is the effect it takes on area hospitals.

Dawn Middleton, an emergency department clinical supervisor with Atrium Health, says her team, although incredibly capable, is struggling.

“We see people truly at their worst,” she said.

This is because gun violence is shooting up in Charlotte. Previously, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials said in July, firearm assaults rose by 25% in just five years.

In just the last two months, WBTV has reported on 12 homicides, the majority stemming from gun violence.

Many of them are children that end up in Middleton’s care.

“The fact that a 14-, 15-year-old is ending up like this is devastating to everyone,” she said.

“Seeing the unending parade if you will of gun violence that comes through our doors, it’s one of the reasons we’ve recognized we’ve got to do more than just patch people up and send them out,” added David Jacobs, the medical director for Atrium Health’s violence-based intervention program.

He said the constant uptick of violence that was exacerbated by the pandemic and current staff shortages is not just costing patients trauma; it’s costing his staff.

That’s why Atrium Health is starting a violence-intervention program: to curb violence before victims end up in hospital beds.

Jacobs gathered with local and state health officials, like North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley, in Charlotte Wednesday to discuss solutions.

“Community-based programs that channel anger into mediation, try to make things more productive, and these are low-cost interventions that we need to be doing more of,” said Kinsley.

While Atrium Health plans to invest in current and new programs to make Charlotte a safer place, Middleton said her team will keep working tirelessly.

“This team just amazes me,” she said. “Then they go home and they come back and do the same thing the next day, every day.”

As for what the violence intervention program will look like, Atrium Health officials said they’ll be partnering with the city of Charlotte to fund and promote existing gun and violence intervention programs and other programs like education and mediation.