Hackensack Meridian initiative sees violence as healthcare's business

Hackensack Meridian Health, based in Edison, N.J., has provided aid to hundreds of people affected by gun violence through an initiative called "Project HEAL." 

The violence intervention program is based at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J. Since its formation two years ago, Project HEAL has helped 400 victims of violence, provided more than 1,850 counseling sessions and received nearly $8 million in state and federal funding — $3 million of grant money was invested in the program recently, according to a news release shared with Becker's

In addition to counseling, the program offers emergency financial assistance, transportation assistance and legal referrals. The health system plans to work with local school districts and religious organizations to deploy "peer specialists" who can serve as mentors to at-risk youth. 

"These investments send two very clear messages. First, our healthcare network and state and federal leaders understand that violence is a serious public health issue," said Aakash Shah, MD, medical director of Project HEAL and chief of addiction medicine at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. "Secondly, if you have been a victim of violence, they see you, they hear you, and they are providing the resources needed to ensure that your tomorrow is better than today." 

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