Supporting Young People Touched by Violence
One in an ongoing series
Young victims of violence who are rushed to Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia get more than medical treatment for their wounds. Soon after they’re admitted, Brianna Bland appears at their bedside with offers of help and visions of hope.
Bland is program manager of Einstein’s Trauma Intervention Program (TIP), designed to provide young people, ages 14 to 30, the resources and support they need to avoid becoming victimized again.
“We give them support to get on their feet after something so terrible has happened,” Bland says. They’re offered trauma counseling; help with obtaining housing, health insurance and food; resources for drug rehabilitation – whatever they need.
Bland joined Einstein in February to get TIP back up and running, after it had been suspended due to a lapse in external funding.
It’s too soon to fully measure the program’s effectiveness. However, Erica Harris, MD, medical director of the program, says: “We know that studies have shown that similar programs decrease the chances of participants being re-injured or involved with the justice system, and improve utilization of social service and mental health resources.”
Offering Help, Building Trust
Not all patients are receptive to Bland’s offers of help, of course. Some are suspicious, especially at first.
“They ask me, ‘Who are you going to tell?’” she says. “Maybe they think we’re connected to police. And there’s a stigma about attending counseling or therapy, especially in the black community.” Her first job is to create trust.
Other patients, though, are eager for the chance to pursue a different path. Bland says she’s gratified when she can do “even one small thing” to help redirect a life. She cites getting someone re-enrolled in school, for instance, though that hardly seems a small thing.
Bland’s job is gratifying, too, because she’s lived within Einstein’s orbit most of her life, and now she’s part of the hospital family.
Bland grew up in Olney, in Einstein Philadelphia’s neighborhood. She attended Philadelphia High School for Girls, around the corner from Einstein. Her first job was at the ShopRite at Front and Olney, “and Einstein was always there on healthcare days or community days. Einstein has always been in my neighborhood.”
Bland says she’s known since she was a camp counselor as a teenager that she wanted to work with young people. There was a brief time when she wanted to be a veterinarian, but “then I realized I only like dogs,” she says.
Shaped by a Strong Support System
While Bland says she can relate to the patients who have few support systems to help them navigate life, she’s had a different experience. She credits her mother with providing all the support and role modeling she needed.
“My mom takes care of everybody,” Bland says. “She’s a person everybody calls for advice. She knows how to do everything. She’s supportive, she’s attentive. She’s in tune and in touch. I picked up her ways.”
The Philadelphia High School for Girls reinforced her mother’s message about the importance of education.
“I went to Girls’ High, and they drilled it in our heads: college, career, you need to be something, you want to do something. I followed everything they laid out for us.”
Bland is the first generation of her family to graduate college, and she also has a master’s degree. She worked for a private social service agency and the Philadelphia School District before coming to Einstein.
Dr. Harris is thrilled to have her.
“Brianna is connecting some of our most at-risk patients and their families with needed resources both here at Einstein and outside in the community,” Dr. Harris says.
When patients are discharged, they’re referred to Northwest Victims Services, which can help them navigate the criminal justice system, among other things, and to Cure Violence, formerly known as CeaseFire.
“She is connecting with participants to support their healing process and foster trust on their recovery journeys,” Dr. Harris says. “Violence, and in particular gun violence, is spiraling out of control and we are more in need of such programs now than ever.”