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Children's National Hospital hires gun violence activist to help prevent kids from returning to the emergency department

Since January, the program director estimates more than 150 kids could have used this program.

WASHINGTON — With seemingly more children ending up in the Emergency Department for gunshot wounds, Children's National Hospital has created a new position to help keep them from coming back.

It's called the Gun Violence Intervention Specialist, and the hospital hired Jawanna Hardy to fill the role a couple of months ago.

She's a longtime anti-violence activist and has been leading the group Guns Down Friday, which helps keep kids out of violence, for years.

Her goal with the position is to bridge the gap between the community and the hospital and help connect kids who come in injured with resources they need to take a different path.

“You can imagine how much anger and hurt those children are in," Hardy said, "especially for kids who get shot and survive as they watch their friends die."

She works with these kids every day.

“To understand the person who got shot, like, it just makes a world of difference," she said.

From now on, she can make that difference at Children's National Hospital. She'll be there to meet 15-year-olds and younger when they end up in the emergency department as violence victims.

“A lot of the victims of the funerals that I go to, when we do our research, when we look it up, those children have been shot before. Those children have came in for mental health issues. So it's like… how about we catch it before a second time," Hardy said.

That's Dr. Katie Donnelly's thought exactly.

She's the Medical Director of the new hospital-based Youth Violence Intervention Program at Children's National, and applied for the grant that allowed them to hire Hardy.

“And so finding that reachable moment where we can intervene and say, there are all of these things available to you. Let's get you hooked up with these things," Dr. Donnelly said. "Let's get you someone that wants to listen to you. Let's get you back in school. Let's think about your future... is really what drives me and what I want people to take away from this that we care.”

Dr. Donnelly estimates that since January, the hospital's ED has already seen more than 150 kids that could have qualified for the program.

For now, it's her, Hardy, and a social worker leading the efforts, but they hope to grow.

“I really want to continue to, to push us to be more accountable to our communities. I think bringing Jawanna on was is a great first step.”

A first step toward making kids' first emergency room visit their last.

“When they see that I'm connected to the community … it’s like, Oh, wow," Hardy said. "Okay, I can talk to her, I can trust her, and they can trust and talk to me. So it just makes a big difference.”

Hardy said it's already making a difference.

Children's National is also part of what's called Project Change, where multiple hospitals in the region meet monthly to discuss violence prevention and intervention efforts.

Now, the pediatric voice is represented.

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