Healing Hurt People

Healing Hurt People (HHP) is the cornerstone program of the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice. HHP is a community-focused, hospital-based program designed to reduce reinjury and retaliation among youth ages 8-30. The program is affiliated with the Emergency Department (ED) at Hahnemann University Hospital and the Drexel University College of Medicine. In the Fall of 2009, HHP was expanded to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children to reach young victims of violence age 8-21.

HHP is the Headquarters for the National Network of Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs.

Healing Hurt People works with clients who are seen in the ED for intentional injuries (gunshot, stab, or assault wounds). The program was conceived by an interdisciplinary team consisting of an emergency physician, an internist, a psychiatrist, a social worker and a psychologist with extensive expertise in violence prevention and trauma. HHP was designed to address the needs—physical, emotional, and social—that victims of violence face after being released from the emergency department.

Often, individuals who have been violently injured have reported that while in the emergency department, their thoughts are to either change their way of life or to retaliate. Most often these youth return, without any supports, to the hostile environment in which they were injured. Healing Hurt People uses a trauma-informed approach to capitalize on this potentially life-changing moment and address the needs of these youth by providing connection to resources such as:

  • medical follow-up
  • emotional support for post-traumatic stress
  • mentoring
  • working with schools to help students affected by school violence
  • housing
  • substance abuse treatment
  • recreation
  • legal services
  • after-school program referral
  • job training and placement
  • parenting education and support


The staff at HHP seeks to develop an ongoing connection and to serve as mentors to help clients discover more positive paths in life. The role of the Injury Prevention Coordinator is also to educate various medical and emergency department staff about a trauma-informed approach to working with victims of violence. Ongoing in-services are conducted with hospital department personnel (such as social work staff, inpatient trauma team and psychiatric unit) and quarterly presentations are led for residents in which clients may convey their traumatic experiences and the services that have helped them. This educational initiative is anticipated to expand to ongoing trauma-informed professional development curricula for hospital and social service providers.

There are plans to incorporate a follow-up health clinic for clients in the program to ensure that their post-emergency medical issues are addressed. Many clients do not have ongoing relationships with primary care doctors and are reluctant to follow up with other health care issues. A follow-up clinic will allow for continuity of medical care while also presenting opportunities for clients to connect with and support each other.

Through the Healing Hurt People program, a prototype for other level 1 trauma centers in urban settings may emerge so that victims of violence may heal in a comprehensive and compassionate manner. In this way, a “Best Practice” model may be developed that outlines the approach and steps to creating similar programs across the country.