A program at USA Health University Hospital is aimed at helping juvenile offenders get on the right track. It’s a partnership with Strickland Youth Center to address gun violence in Mobile.
This is the second year of the three week ‘Project Inspire’ program. It’s targeted at juvenile offenders who have had a run-in with the law due to gun violence. Dr. Ashley Williams came up with the idea so these teens will see the consequences first hand.
Children and teens in the U.S. experience an alarming rate of gun-related deaths and injuries. The most recent data from the centers for disease control and prevention shows that in 2016 alone, there were more than 3,000 firearm homicides among kids from 10 to 19 years old, and more than 2,000 firearm suicides among that age group.
“It’s a national public health crisis as well as a local public health crisis and so it’s something that we take seriously here,” said Dr. Williams.
The purpose of Project Inspire is to build relationships and uphold young people in our communities.
Dr. Williams told News 5, “We teach them what trauma is, why it occurs, how it can be prevented and what it looks like in the short and longterm.”
Participants jump right in on day one.
“We tour in a way in which a trauma patient would. So we start in the trauma bay, we then proceed to the operating room because a lot of our traumas require operations, and then they see the intensive care unit, the physical therapy suites, and they end the tour in the morgue,” Dr. Williams said.
They each sign HIPAA security forms and are encouraged to follow cases when someone comes to the emergency room with a gunshot wound.
Four participants finished the program last year, and none of them have had run-ins with the law since.
“Two went on to get their GEDs, one graduated from high school, and the other, our youngest, is still enrolled in high school, Dr. Williams told Cherish Lombard.
She says she does see a change in the participants during their time at the hospital.
“They will tell you that they come in thinking this is going to be another boring, you know, thing that they have to do. And after the first day, you can see that this just opens them up to something that they’ve never really thought about and never really had any experience with, and they all enjoy it,” she said.
Dr. Williams wants kids to know that there are people who believe in them.
She said, “Your story isn’t written, you write your story, and we’re just here to help you.”
She told News 5 she does stay in touch with former participants and will continue that with future participants.
She believes juvenile gun violence is due to in part where these at-risk teens come from, and a lack of guidance and support. So it’s up to others to step in, through programs like Project Inspire, for example, and help them avoid a life of crime.