Southland RISE celebrates 5 years of violence prevention and recovery efforts in Chicagoland

Staff from UChicago Medicine's Violence Recovery Program (VRP) stand alongside Michael Tafolla and Sara Calzada (right and second from right) of the nonprofit Claretian Associates. VRP representatives are, from left to right: Edith Gonzalez, DeQuesha Hopkins, Carla Sandoval, Jade Curless, Simone Gunn, Kenny White, Christine Goggins and Franklin Cosey-Gay.

For the past five years, Southland RISE has brought together hospitals, community leaders and other stakeholders to find solutions to violence on Chicago’s South Side and in surrounding suburbs.

On March 21, the collaborative marked its fifth anniversary with an all-day community summit. Funded through a grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), the event celebrated the progress made through local partnerships and identified ways to continue bolstering violence prevention efforts across the Chicagoland area.

Launched in 2019 as a collaborative between the University of Chicago Medicine and Advocate Health Care, Southland RISE (Resilience Initiative to Strengthen and Empower) integrates the violence recovery and trauma programs of the two health systems. These shared resources allow Southland RISE to foster community collaborations and create interventions that wouldn’t be possible through any one organization.

“Gun violence and the resulting trauma are a public health crisis,” said Franklin Cosey-Gay, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of Community & External Affairs at UChicago Medicine. “To address the root causes of violence, we must collaborate and engage with communities to build sustainable programs. By gathering stakeholders at this summit, we are marking an important milestone for Southland RISE and furthering our mission to combat longstanding inequities.”

“Meeting the needs of survivors of violence requires more than caring for their physical wounds,” said Kim Miiller, PsyD, Advocate’s director of trauma recovery and resilience. “We build relationships with patients and connect them with resources as part of a sustained process of trauma recovery support. Our summit is an opportunity to share lessons from effective programs and interventions and apply them in innovative ways to improve lives across Chicagoland.”

Titled “Paths to Resilience: Navigating Trauma Through Collaboration and Innovation,” the fifth-anniversary summit was held at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center on Chicago’s far South Side.

The event featured opening remarks from Chicago Deputy Mayor Garien Gatewood, who emphasized the importance of identifying the effects of violence at a “hyperlocal level.” He said understanding the differing impacts of trauma — even within a single neighborhood — would allow resources to be directed to individuals and families who are most at risk.

In an appeal to his fellow Chicagoans, Gatewood said: “We want a city that loves us as much as we love it. We want a city that takes care of us as much as we take care of it.”

Abdullah Pratt, MD, holds a microphone and talks during a fireside chat with journalist Adrienne Samuels Gibbs.
UChicago Medicine's Abdullah Hasan Pratt, MD, discusses gun violence and health disparities during a fireside chat with journalist Adrienne Samuels Gibbs (right). Their conversation was part of a fifth-anniversary summit for Southland RISE (Resilience Initiative to Strengthen and Empower) held on March 21.

The March 21 summit also included a fireside chat with Abdullah Hasan Pratt, MD, an emergency medicine physician at UChicago Medicine and a native of the Woodlawn neighborhood just south of the UChicago campus.

As Faculty Director for Community Engagement at UChicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, Pratt discussed the need to address trauma holistically and prioritize interventions that support violence prevention in addition to recovery. That’s part of why he founded MedCEEP (Medical Careers Exposure and Emergency Preparedness), a nonprofit that works to eliminate health disparities on the South Side and support youth who want to pursue careers in medicine. MedCEEP includes the TRAP (Trauma Recovery & Prevention of) Violence Program, which provides resources and strategies for students to navigate unaddressed trauma.

Trauma centers, said Pratt, must work toward comprehensive solutions for violence — the same way hospitals combat cancer or other illnesses: “We need to approach violence with that same equity and seriousness.”

The Southland RISE event continued with a series of panels and workshops that convened community and nonprofit leaders, city officials, social service professionals, physicians and public health experts. Those discussions focused on the impact of trauma and the importance of recognizing structural violence; basic first response skills for treating gunshot wounds; community collaborations and street outreach; and many other topics.

Xavier Ramey, CEO of the social impact consulting firm Justice Informed, emceed the summit.

Over the past five years, Southland RISE has distributed $650,000 in grant funding to more than 50 community-based violence intervention programs on Chicago’s South Side and south suburbs. Applications for this year’s summer funding round are being accepted through April 10, and awardees will be announced in early May.

With funding provided by ICJIA, Southland RISE also administers an emergency relief fund to support those impacted by trauma and violence — helping more than 100 individuals and their families to date.

Southland RISE was inspired by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s Chicago HEAL Initiative (Hospital Engagement, Action and Leadership), which urges Chicagoland’s healthcare providers to help reduce community violence and address healthcare needs associated with violence recovery.

“This is lifesaving work, and we need it now more than ever — which is why today’s summit and your dedication to this issue is so important,” Durbin said in a video message played at the event. “Together, we can make our communities safer and more resilient.”