The hospital community sees firsthand the terrible consequences of gun violence. Emergency rooms and trauma centers are where victims come to be saved, if possible. All too often, it is not: Nearly a third of all firearm injuries are fatal.
Patients with gunshot injuries are disproportionately and heartbreakingly young. Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death for 15-to 24-year-olds in the United States. The survivors may live with a lifetime of physical and mental disability.
The region's hospitals are leading efforts to stop the violence. They have created programs, such as Temple University Hospital's Cradle to Grave, to help at-risk youths confront the grim reality of gun violence and learn how to avoid it. Hahnemann University Hospital and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children are partnering with Drexel University's College of Medicine and School of Public Health on Healing Hurt People, a violence-intervention program for children and young adults. Through the Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center, government and community stakeholders, along with Drexel, Temple, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania, are working together to identify and address the roots of violence and aggression.
Like the rest of the nation, the hospital community has recoiled in horror and reconsidered its responsibilities since 20 children and six adults were gunned down in Newtown, Conn. As in other high-profile mass shootings, these children were the victims of a young adult, one who may have been struggling with behavioral-health issues.
In response, the hospitals in the region and state have endorsed a policy that insists on adequate mental-health resources for those who may present a danger to themselves and others, as well as funding for public-health research and education to prevent gun violence.
As a nation, we've already shown that we can successfully tackle tough public-health problems, such as motor-vehicle fatalities. A public research initiative helped cut this death rate by 25 percent from 2000 to 2009. Let's commit to a similar effort to reduce deaths from guns.
Hospitals urge Congress to pass legislation that increases access to behavioral-health services, steps up public-health research on the causes and prevention of gun violence, and supports a public-health campaign to stop shootings. We also urge the federal government to fully implement the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.
In Southeastern Pennsylvania, almost 40 percent of adults with mental-health diagnoses are not receiving treatment. One child in eight lives in a community perceived as unsafe by adults in the household. We can and must do better.