By Brie Zeltner

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is awarding $2.6 million to create a network of five trauma recovery centers aimed at helping victims of violence recover and access the services they need.

MetroHealth Medical Center and University Hospitals, each with a local community partner, together will receive $1.5 million of the total funding. The money will be used to provide crisis intervention to violent crime victims who are hospitalized and follow-up after discharge.

"We are looking at trauma like an injury, no matter what the event is. It's something that needs to be managed and treated," said Sarah Hendrickson, MetroHealth's manager of survivor recovery services.

Hospital-based and hospital-linked violence intervention programs aim to reduce violence by treating the trauma it causes and addressing the social barriers to help, including joblessness, lack of transportation, and poverty.

"The whole premise of this is that 'hurt people hurt people' and this is our response to address that issue and try to stop the cycle of violence," said Hendrickson.

Many violence victims identified by MetroHealth as needing mental health or other services after a traumatic event don't come back to the hospital after they're discharged, she said.

To address this, each network hospital partnered with a local victim service provider or community health center when applying for the funding. These centers will serve as outreach coordinators for patients once they've left the hospital, providing counseling and connecting them to the services they need, Hendrickson said.

MetroHealth will work with the May Dugan Center, a West Side non-profit which provides health and human service programming. University Hospitals partnered with Circle Health Services, formerly the Free Clinic, a federally qualified health center on the East Side.

Dr. Edward Barksdale, division chief of pediatric surgery at UH Cleveland Medical Center, said the network will address a vexing problem for doctors, who know their violently injured patients are likely to get hurt again.

"Being a victim of violence has long-term health effects," he said. "So much of what we see in trauma is is not even what happens in the hospital, it's what happens later, after discharge."

Barksdale compares the violence victim's recovery to that of someone who has been in a war and suffered post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

"When someone goes to war and they're a victim of violence or they witness violence, they're forever changed. It affects their lives in every way, including  ability to work, relationships with family and friends, and overall well-being."

The network's community partners will provide trauma counselors to give mental health support and advocacy to hospitalized patients who are the victims of traumatic violent crimes.

"These Trauma Recovery Centers will fill a gap in connecting victims of crime to services, especially those within under-served, vulnerable populations that may face barriers in accessing or may not know how to access victim services,"   DeWine said today at a news conference at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, which is another grant recipient.

The AG's trauma network is modeled after a similar one in California, The Trauma Recovery Center, launched by the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and UCSF Medical Center, according to a spokeswoman for Mike DeWine's office.

It's separate from an effort by The Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, which recently announced plans to embed some of its staff members, who are former gang members and reformed criminals, as "violence interrupters" in both MetroHealth and University Hospitals emergency departments. The positions will be funded with two $75,000 grants from the city of Cleveland and United Way of Greater Cleveland.

The AG funding allows MetroHealth and UH to serve more than gun violence victims, including victims of gang violence, physical attacks, sexual assault, human trafficking, domestic violence, and hate crimes.

"To me, violence is violence," Barksdale said.

MetroHealth, which serves about 640 violence victims a year with mental health and other services, hopes to roughly double its capacity with the network funding.

The other three sites statewide are:

--The Ohio State University STAR Program and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: $839,335

--Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses and Cincinnati Children's Hospital: $125,685

--CitiLookout and Springfield Regional Medical Center: $171,963

"Ohio joins a growing list of states recognizing the impact of unaddressed trauma and the importance of providing trauma recovery services to stop the cycle of crime," Lenore Anderson, president of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, said in a release. The Alliance helped develop Ohio's network.

"Eight in ten crime victims experience at least one symptom of trauma and too many do not receive the support they need from the criminal justice system. Today, Ohio took an important step to fix that," Anderson said.

The $2,675,770 in grants are part of the 2015 "Ohio Attorney General's Expanding Services and Empowering Victims Initiative" and uses money from the Victims of Crime Act, which comes from federal settlements, fines, and fees.

Grants for additional trauma recovery centers throughout the state could be awarded in the future, according to the Attorney General's statement.

(c)2017 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland