Violence prevention programs working at Eskenazi

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Emergency rooms across the country see major trauma every day, but in Indianapolis, in at least one ER, they’re not only saving lives, but writing prescriptions for hope.

“I tell her sorry every day about what I did. I just apologize, because I didn’t mean to pull a gun on my mom,” said Daechaun Copeland.

The 13-year-old grew up fast. Even as a middle school student, he became a product of the violence around him.

“I watched my mom get beat for 10 years,” said Daechaun. “And it got so bad to where my dad was just out of control.”

He was ordered by the court to attend a Prescription for Life 3-day workshop. It’s under the umbrella of Eskenazi’s Prescription for Hope, a program that signs up victims of violence, right in the hospital.

“The root of the problem is really complex,” said Dr. Gerardo Gomez, head of Trauma at Eskenazi Health.

Dr. Gomez started the program after seeing similar programs work in Chicago and Baltimore. The goal is to keep kids out of their ER, by providing resources for jobs, education and even counseling.

“When you get to meet and talk to a lot of these individuals, honestly they’re good people,” said Eskenazi Trauma Surgeon Clark Simmons. “But they just have not had the same opportunities that we’ve had.”

That’s where Dianna Creasser comes into the picture. She works directly with the young people in Eskenazi’s violence prevention programs.

“I care because not everyone gets the same breaks,” said Diana.

Diana teaches young people in small groups and connects with them individually.

“They have been exposed to what we would call adverse life experiences for all of their lives,” said Diana. “I’m not just talking about violence; it’s racism, it’s poverty, it’s loss, it’s family violence, it’s all kinds of adverse experiences.”

Johnnie Willis is a program success story. He enrolled when a close friend was shot.

“If you don’t got support,” said Willis, “you basically feel like ‘who cares?’ I know how that is because I’ve been there.”

For Willis, the classes and staff in the program made a huge difference. He says now, he wants to be a leader.

“I know how to cope and overcome obstacles now in better ways now than I used to,” said Willis.

Not only does he have better life skills, he now has a job that he enjoys and goals for the future.

“It’s a construction site, I actually like it so I’m going to go to school and further myself so I can become an asset to the company,” said Willis.

“For me, it’s important. It’s more than just a job, it’s life work,” he said.

And it’s working. Dechaun says he’s learned how to better control his anger in the program. He hopes to go to college and work with computers.

Dr. Gomez says he used to see about 35 percent of victims of violence return to the ER. Since they started the program, that number is down to 4 percent.

For more information on Eskenazi’s violence prevention programs, click here.

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