University of Chicago Medicine, CeaseFire Partner to Address Violence

University of Chicago Medicine, CeaseFire partner to address violence

February 7, 2012

In an effort to address urban violence on the South Side, the University of Chicago Medicine is partnering with CeaseFire Chicago to sponsor a "Violence Interrupter" who will focus on monitoring, mediating and defusing disputes in neighborhoods that the medical campus serves.

The University of Chicago Medicine will provide $120,000 over three years to fund the Violence Interrupter. The partnership with CeaseFire is part of a broader initiative by UChicago Medicine to address the violence affecting its surrounding communities and the greater South Side.

As part of the anti-violence initiative, UChicago Medicine also will host screenings of "The Interrupters," the documentary movie directed by Oscar-nominated Steve James of "Hoop Dreams" and co-produced by Alex Kotlowitz, author of "There Are No Children Here." The film, which follows three Interrupters for a year of working on the streets of Chicago, has been nominated for numerous awards and chosen as an official selection for the Sundance Film Festival.

There will be six screenings of the film in 2012. The first screening will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 2012, at the Chicago Urban League at 4510 S. Michigan Ave.

Each screening will be followed by a panel discussion with experts from the University of Chicago and community leaders. The discussions will be tailored toward the needs of each audience and provide information on services offered by the host organizations and UChicago Medicine to deal with the aftermath of violence.

Quin Golden, Associate Vice President for Strategic Affiliations and the Urban Health Initiative at UChicago Medicine, emphasized the importance of addressing specific community problems at each screening. "We want this to be an organic partnership, something that rises out of a joint need and a joint search for solutions," she said.

Tio Hardiman, director for CeaseFire Illinois, said he hopes to capitalize on the film's success and the support from the University of Chicago Medicine to continue CeaseFire's mission.

CeaseFire is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that takes a public health approach to violence prevention by identifying communities at highest risk for violence, developing personal relationships with influential members of those communities and working to change behavior and norms before disputes escalate into violence. Founded by Executive Director Gary Slutkin in 1995, CeaseFire gained worldwide attention after the 2011 debut of "The Interrupters," a critically acclaimed documentary on the group's grassroots efforts to stop urban violence.

"I think it's going to be a win-win situation for the University of Chicago and CeaseFire because no one can do this work by themselves," Hardiman said. "We all need to do this together. We're hoping that through our partnership we can establish a real genuine relationship, and the result will be less violence on the South Side of Chicago and a healthier community."

Hardiman created the Violence Interrupter program in 2004 to work directly with at-risk individuals, who are often out of reach of conventional institutions such as schools and social service organizations. Violence Interrupters are professionally trained, credible messengers who have overcome their own pasts marred by violence and crime. In 2011, they mediated more than 900 conflicts in Chicago and worked with more than 1,100 young people to change the culture of violence and retaliation that can lead to shootings.

"They have the credibility, reputation and compassionate commitment to stop senseless killing, because the young guys won't listen to the average Joe," Hardiman said. "The Interrupters have given up the street life and want to contribute something back to society to make a difference."

A study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that a replication program of Chicago's CeaseFire model reduced shootings and killings in Baltimore. In communities plagued by violence where CeaseFire was implemented, homicides were reduced by more than half. In communities where CeaseFire was not implemented, community members were seven times more likely to support using guns to resolve disputes compared to a neighborhood where CeaseFire had been implemented.

As part of UChicago Medicine's anti-violence initiative, the University along with eta Creative Arts Foundation will host a media screening from noon to 3 p.m. Feb. 22, 2012, of "It Shoudda Been Me," a play about youth violence written by Doriane Miller, MD, director of the Center for Community Health and Vitality. Miller wrote the play in response to the numbers and nonchalant attitudes of her patients who had experienced gun violence in Chicago. It will run through June 15, 2012, as part of eta's Showfolk Cultural Enrichment Series for Youth.

UChicago Medicine also has started an initiative to train 27 percent of its adult Emergency Department nurses as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) -- specially trained nurses who independently conduct forensic examinations with rape and sexual assault victims and can testify in court. The medical center treated 106 sexual assault victims in its adult and pediatrics Emergency Departments during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, more than any other Chicago hospital. It aims to have at least one Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner on call 24 hours a day by late 2012.