Pandemic blamed for surge in assault injuries, KU hospital intervenes with new program

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The University of Kansas Hospital says it’s started seeing twice as many patients injured by assault, and experts suspect COVID-19 is to blame.

KU Hospital averaged between 20 and 30 assault patients a month in the last three years. But doctors began treating twice as many violent injuries in May as pandemic lockdowns lifted.

Most of the victims are young people between 12 and 24.

The health system is responding with a hospital-based violence intervention program called REVIVE. The program connects patients with educational opportunities, job training programs and safe housing using case managers at the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime or similar community health workers in Wyandotte County and Lawrence, Kan.

“Through these conditions we are experiencing right now with COVID, it’s exasperating,” Jomella Watson-Thompson, a KU behavioral psychologist and urban planner, said “We are seeing exasperated effects of many other interrelated problems and conditions. You layer that on top of our social injustices, I think the question we have to ask is: Why is it more likely that some individuals and some groups right now are experiencing elevated rates of violence?”

REVIVE stands for: Reducing the Effects of Violence through Intervention and Victim Empowerment.

The pandemic has created hurdles for case managers who can’t always meet victims in person. But through phone calls and other technology, community health workers are trying to connect victims to resources that can help prevent them from being hurt again.

Health professionals say they know when people are not as connected to each other, it’s harder for victims to find the help they need.

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