Like many cities across the country, violence has caused injury and trauma for individuals, families and neighborhoods across Milwaukee. Over the past year, Ascension Wisconsin has committed to better understanding what the community deeply cares about and residents have shared their ideas about how we can improve the health of the community together.
One theme that emerged from this engagement process was the importance of a safe community. According to the 2018 City of Milwaukee Community Health Survey Report, respondents rated violence or crime as one of their top community health issues.
“As healthcare providers, we are prepared to care for patients when they visit our facilities, but we also recognize that many other factors play a role in the health of our community. One of those is how safe residents feel in their neighborhood and their home,” shared Reggie Newson, Chief Advocacy Officer, Ascension Wisconsin.
Newson added, Ascension St. Joseph has been serving Milwaukee for 140 years and recognizes its role as an anchor institution in the Sherman Park and West Burleigh Street neighborhoods.
“If we think about safety as a public health issue, then we have an opportunity to care for the community in new and innovative ways,” Newson said.
“In just the past five months, we’ve treated 36 patients with firearm injuries, including children,” said Keli Anderson, BSN, RN, Trauma Coordinator, Ascension St. Joseph. “One way that Ascension St. Joseph is working to improve safety is to help secure firearms within the home.”
Through a partnership with Project ChildSafe, Ascension St. Joseph is providing free safety kits that include a cable-style gun lock, along with firearm safety information. The locks fit most handguns, rifles and shotguns. They’re available free of charge at the main desk in the emergency department at Ascension St. Joseph, 5000 W. Chambers Street in Milwaukee. No identifying information is taken from individuals who wish to receive a lock and no questions are asked.
“June is National Safety Month and is a good time to remember that safe handling and storing of firearms should be practiced all year long, so we can reduce the number of gun-related accidents and create a safer environment for our community,” said Milwaukee Police Department, Community Liaison Officer, Bowie Buchner. “We appreciate Ascension Wisconsin’s efforts to make Milwaukee safer and I encourage residents to pick up a safety kit for free at the Milwaukee Police Department, District 7 or at Ascension St. Joseph.”
Project ChildSafe, a program developed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), educates community members about safe firearms handling practices and works to reduce firearms accidents.
Project ChildSafe has distributed more than 37 million firearm safety kits throughout the country since 2003. The program is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and the firearms industry.
“At Ascension Wisconsin, we see violence prevention, in all its forms, as essential to health and well-being,” said Anderson. “We hope making these locks and safety information available will help us care for the community before they reach our doors by reducing gun injuries and making a positive impact in our community.”
In addition to the free gun locks, Ascension St. Joseph is working with the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s Office of Violence Prevention (MHDOVP) on its 414 LIFE Milwaukee Blueprint for Peace initiative.
In April, MHDOVP announced a partnership with Ascension Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin to help combat gun violence in the city. This partnership is part of the 414LIFE program, which uses credible messengers, called violence interrupters, from the community to engage in prevention-based outreach and targeted conflict mediation.
Through this partnership, the 414LIFE team will provide support to families, friends and survivors of gun violence in local hospitals and the surrounding communities. The intention is to start the support and mediation process as early as possible in both the hospital and the neighborhood.
Ascension’s mission is to improve the health of the community. By offering innovative programs such as free gun locks for the community, Ascension St. Joseph is helping to prevent gun-related injuries for its patients and Milwaukee. To get a free gun lock, visit the main desk in the Ascension St. Joseph emergency department, 5000 W. Chambers St.