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Drexel’s Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice Receives ‘Empowering’ Grant

November 13, 2017

Three young men talk together.
Tony Thompson, at left, talks with Brandon Young (middle) and Cauzell Harris (right), at their graduation from the Community Health Worker Peer Training Academy.

Drexel’s Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice has been awarded a $446,000 Forward Promise Empowering Projects grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

John Rich, MD, MPH, professor of Health Management and Policy in the Drexel School of Public Health, and Ted Corbin, MD, MPP,  associate professor of Emergency Medicine in the College of Medicine, secured the grant to go toward the Center’s Healing Hurt People program. It will support the training and hiring of new community health worker peers, and expanding the program’s focus on culturally responsive healing practices, including storytelling.

Additionally, the two-year grant will facilitate work with Kenneth Hardy, PhD, a professor in Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, who focuses on healing from racial trauma and oppression.

Forward Promise is a program that “aims to improve health and enable success in school, work and life” of boys and young men of color. The Empowering Projects grant is designed specifically to “provide culturally relevant and evidence-supported responses to trauma” to these young people .

Healing Hurt People was founded by Corbin in 2007 at Hahnemann University Hospital’s Emergency Department and has since spread to trauma centers across Philadelphia and across the country, including Chicago and Portland, Oregon.

Ted Corbin hugging a graduate of the program while John Rich looks on.

Since its founding, 1,800 victims of violence between the ages of 8 and 30 have been served by Healing Hurt People.

The program is designed to help victims heal from the trauma experienced by the young, male victims of violence. Often, only their physical wounds are treated in the emergency department, while the emotional trauma is left untouched, which has been shown to lead to worse medical outcomes down the line, including repeated re-injury. So Healing Hurt People seeks to intervene in emergency departments right after injuries are sustained.

By addressing the trauma of violent injury, as well as the stress of these young people’s day-to-day lives, the program hopes to reduce the number of re-visits to the emergency room. Through this, these young men can be put onto a path for a better life.

Emergency Department interventions in Healing Hurt People are carried out by licensed social workers and community health worker peers, the latter of whom are through the Community Health Worker Peer Training Academy. These young men are survivors of violence who are “uniquely qualified through their lived experience to support healing, growth and thriving for their peers and communities,” Rich wrote.

“We feel strongly that young people in our communities have tremendous untapped potential they can bring to health care and public health,” Rich said. “They know what it is like to experience community trauma and also what it takes to heal. They are able to make a connection to Healing Hurt People clients in the hospital and in the community to help them along the path toward physical and emotional healing.” 

Part of that process includes storytelling. The grant will fund further use of digital methods of storytelling as part of the emotional process of healing. Rich, Corbin and the Healing Hurt People team feel it is extremely important to help clients create their own personal narrative of healing.

And, finally, the grant will bring Hardy and his unique racial trauma research insights into the fold.

“His work brings practical approaches to addressing racial trauma, which is at the root of much of the pain we see among young people,” Rich explained. “They have experienced a lot of racism and prejudice, even when they reach out to the systems that are supposed to help them. Dr. Hardy will be working with staff and clients to help us fashion new and innovative approaches to healing by embedding culturally responsive healing practices into the work of the Center and Healing Hurt People.”