When victims show up at the hospital with bullet wounds, they often go home with deeper injuries that are left untreated.
At a gun violence roundtable Friday, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy offered a solution.
Murphy called for using Medicaid money to screen victims of violent crime for post-traumatic stress disorder when they show up at the hospital.
He floated the idea Friday afternoon at the Elks Club at 87 Webster St., in a meeting he convened with fellow U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal as part of a broader listening tour. The event drew about four dozen community activists, religious leaders, social workers and survivors of gun violence for a wide-ranging conversation before TV cameras and radio mics.
People in the room agreed the city needs to do more to help “disengaged youth” before they wind up dead or in prison.
Schools Superintendent Garth Harries said he has pulled the academic records of every homicide victim who went through city schools.
“You can see the signs,” he said—poor grades in the early years, and missed days of school, lead to truancy and dropping out in later years. He said the city is starting to address this with a new “attendance clinic” for young kids who miss school. And he agreed more needs to be done.
Carolyn Banks (pictured), whose grandson, Marquell Banks, was killed in 2011 at age 13, said his classmates at Fair Haven School remain traumatized by his death. She called for more mental health support for kids exposed to gun violence.
Murphy, who spent most of the meeting listening, piped up to offer what he called an “innovative solution.”
“Gun violence is a public health issue,” Murphy said.
“When you experience trauma, your body changes,” he said. He cited recent research that indicates that “living in a city with high rates of gun violence” is as traumatic as doing “a tour of duty in a war.”
Since gun violence affects kids’ health, Murphy said, why not make Medicaid money available to kids who experience trauma? The money “should be available to do some good old preventive care,” he said.
Murphy later said he got the idea for the proposal from a Feb. 3 article produced by ProPublica. The article cites research in which victims of violence were screened for PTSD at the emergency room. It found that over half of gun violence victims suffer from PTSD.
“If someone gets shot, and I save their life, and they can’t go out and function – did I technically save their life? Probably not,” John Porter, a trauma surgeon in Jackson, Miss., says in the article.
It’s unclear whether, or how, hospitals could start billing Medicaid for PTSD screenings of shooting victims, according to ProPublica’s report. Murphy said it’s worth looking into, to expand the range of services available to victims of trauma.