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Jacobi Medical Center among area hospitals working on initiatives to combat gun violence

ER pediatrician speaks out about gun violence affecting kids
ER pediatrician speaks out about gun violence affecting kids 03:27

NEW YORK -- When gun violence happens, doctors are right there to see first hand the devastating physical impact it has on victims, and the emotional toll that follows for families, often times, right there in the emergency room.

At Northwell Health on Long Island, they offer peer mentors, mental health support, and street outreach. Parents travel across the country, talking about their lost loved ones, and trying to find solutions.

Shenee Johnson's son, Kedrick, was struck and killed by flying bullets at a graduation party in Queens in 2010.

"He had an honorary diploma, an academic scholarship to St. John's University. I was devastated. I had to do something," Johnson said.

READ MORENorthwell Health hosts symposium on the epidemic of gun violence

Three members of Johnson's family were killed by illegal guns. She said she's determined to improve the situation for her three surviving sons.

Outreach from doctors stretches far beyond the emergency room.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon spoke with an ER pediatrician at Jacobi Medical Center about the troubling trend of gun violence impacting kids, and the hospital initiative that's reducing the number of victims being rushed through its doors.

Firearms are now the leading cause of death for kids 1 and older.

The numbers from the Centers for Disease Control represent a new peak.

"I think the hardest news you can ever give a mother or father is that their son or daughter has been killed," said Dr. Noe Romo, Jacobi's director of pediatrics inpatient service.

So far this year, more than 80 kids have been shot and four killed throughout New York City.

Watch our full special "Gun Violence: The Search for Solutions"

Gun Violence: The Search for Solutions 28:45

Since the spring of 2020, the peak of the COVID pandemic, Jacobi Medical Center has seen an increase of 181 percent when it comes to gunshot victims.

Among them, the most innocent New Yorkers.

"Any time a child is injured, it truly changes the dynamic of how we view the patient," Romo said.

Romo said his young patients often don't even understand what's going on.

"A lot of times, they think it was firecrackers that were hit. A lot of times, parents may not want to explain exactly what happened and maybe say it was something else that hit them, or some other kind of injury, because it is quite traumatic," Romo said.

There are more gunshot victims in the Bronx than anywhere in the city. And in the same way that doctors prescribe medicine to the sick, they have tried to find cures for some of the ailments to the gun violence that's been plaguing the community.

"We like to think violent trauma is a disease just like any other disease that requires a unique, comprehensive approach that is different then perhaps what we have been doing prior," Romo said.

So, rather than just treat a patient who comes in for a gunshot wound, they go a step further and go into the community to figure out why it happened in the first place.

"If I don't prevent a patient from coming back from the same injury again, then I haven't quite completed my job," Romo said.

That feeling of needing to do something is what helped launch the Stand Up to Violence initiative. It is just one of 69 hospital-based violence interrupter programs nationally.

"In our eight years of existence, the Stand Up to Violence program has decreased the incidents of gunshot wounds by 55 percent in the areas that we are in compared to the surrounding precinct areas that we are not in," Romo said.

He said the numbers are a sign the program works. They use community outreach workers to go into the streets, with the goal of preventing even more violence.

"Figure out what conflict may have lead to their injury and then try to mediate that dispute to try and prevent both retaliation and reinjury," Romo said.

It's not easy. It takes time and buy-in, but he says if it helps break the cycle, it's worth it.

"No matter how bad the situation may be, we're still in a better position than the patients who are in front of us. We're still asked to do a duty and serve and we are doing so," Romo said. 

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