Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Tough Gang Members Show Change of Heart in Emergency Room

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Tough Gang Members Show Change of Heart in Emergency Room

Article excerpt

CHICAGO (ANS)--Dr. Leslie Zun spends a lot of his work time digging bullets out Chicago's inner-city youth.

Zun, head of the emergency department at Mt. Sinai Hospital, often sees a revolving door line of the same young people getting shot, stabbed, patched up and then sent back out into the streets. Some of them return for one last visit, dead-on-arrival.

"It's frustrating to just provide medical treatment and then send kids back on the street," Zun said. "This 'treat 'em and street 'em' philosophy is ineffective in combating violence. It's also expensive to the medical community and just plain dangerous to the patients we serve."

The return rate of young victims of violence can measure as high as 44 percent at an average time interval of 7.9 months, according to one hospital study. In 20 percent of cases, youths that are patched up and sent out come back fatally wounded.

Out of frustration, Zun contributed to the development of a new program to help these young victims break out of the cycle of violence, starting at the hospital while they are recovering from their injuries.

"Young people who are victims of violence are referred less than kids with colds," said Zun. "Resources for these people are much less than for child abuse, domestic abuse and sexual abuse."

Zun teamed up with Jodi Rosen of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago to create Within Our Reach, a program to intervene at a time when a youth is scared, in pain or ready to make some lifestyle change. The program, started in July 1998, offers crime victims job training, gang tattoo removal, GED courses, sex education and physical and mental health therapy.

Since its inception, the $400,000 two-year program has enrolled nearly 200 clients with a racial breakdown that includes 66 percent African American and 32 percent Hispanic. …

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