‘They are another family outside of my family’: Norfolk General’s Foresight Program provides hope to victims of violence

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY)- – The Foresight Program from Sentara Norfolk General looks to heal the unseen wounds victims of violence suffer from after they’re discharged.

Since March 2020, the program looks at how the community plays a role in the healing process as the amount of victims of violence checked into the Level 1 Trauma Center continue to increase every year.

For those in the program like Ebony Pope, having someone to vent to or a shoulder to cry on is a great asset after their physical wounds heal.

Pope was injured during a shooting in Portsmouth last November and remembers it like it was yesterday.

“Immediately when you hear gunshots, the first thing you’re going to do is hit the floor,” she said. “So, soon as I got up, it hit me in the top of my butt.”

She was visiting family when bullets flew into the home — hitting her.

The bullet punctured her colon and she lost a kidney.

“I kept asking the officer, ‘Officer, am I going to live? Please, I don’t wanna go anywhere.’ I got a grandson, I got two kids,” she said.

She’s physically healed after multiple surgeries, but the trauma from another incident eight months ago was still taking a toll on her.

That’s when the Foresight team stepped in.

“Eight months earlier I lost my son in a car accident,” she said. “So, having to go through that and then everything changing within 24 hours and I’m depending on somebody now. I can’t get up and do what I want to do, move around, all of that stuff.”

While doctors heal their physical wounds, Foresight Program experts address their emotional injuries and the root causes of the violence in their communities.

The program helps victims with issues like housing, utility bills and unemployment.

Valeria Mitchell, the Trauma Program Manager at Norfolk General, says the work Foresight does to combat violence means a lot to her, especially as the mother of an African American son.

“[It] hasn’t directly affected my family yet, however I’m concerned about what goes on in the rest of the community cause we can’t make the community better if we only worry about what happens in our homes,” she said.

Dr. Jay Collins, Medical Trauma Director in the Level 1 Trauma Center, says he’s seen an unfortunate trend of predominately African American victims over the last few years.

He hopes the program can address the problems at home victims may face that put them in dangerous situations.

“I think we’re realizing violence is a disease and if you come in shot, we can sew you up, patch up the holes, get you better, but then we send you right back to the same environment that you were in,” he said.

Until now, the program has mostly served adults but will soon expand to CHKD as the hospital treats an increase in younger patients at their level 1 trauma center.

These are the numbers of patients with violence-related injuries treated at the Level 1 Trauma Center.
Credit: Sentara Norfolk General’s Level 1 Trauma Center

Foresight Program Team Coordinator Stephen Williams hopes the program can help break the cycles of trauma families may experience.

“If we can get one patient or one family to be successful and move to the point of being empowered by themselves and to change those issues within the community, that’s a start to the larger picture,” he said.

Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone says a multidisciplinary approach could help better address crime: one involving Foresight, law enforcement, churches, and social workers to name a few.

“We all have measurable outcomes we want to attain,” he said. “I think we do well, but we do well in silos. I think we got to come together as a force multiplier and address this issue.”

For Pope, she says every hospital should have a program like Foresight.

“They are another family outside of my family. And I really like, I’m very thankful and grateful for that,” she said.

Mitchell says you don’t have to have a medical degree to get involved in the program. They’re just looking for compassionate people who want to improve their community.

If you’d like to get involved, call the Foresight Program at 757-388-5234.

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