Breaking the Cycle of Violence By Reaching Youth At School

This podcast is part of a series highlighting innovative approaches to reducing violence and improving health
outcomes among at-risk minority youth at the nine demonstration sites of the Minority
Youth Violence Prevention Initiative
. One of these demonstrations sites is Youth Intercept,
a hospital-based violence-prevention program in Chatham County, Georgia, that aims to break the cycle of youth violence
and retaliation by providing educational services and referrals to public health services to at-risk minority youth.

Sheryl Sams, director of Youth Intercept, joined this week’s podcast
to discuss how Youth Intercept has adapted the hospital-based violence intervention model to meet the needs of Chatham
County, including the program’s development of a school-based element to serve youth in the Chatham County Public



following is a transcript.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Hi, this is Rafael Pope-Sussman
of the Center for Court Innovation. This podcast is part of a series we are doing with people seeking to curb violence
and improve access to public health for at-risk minority youth as part of the Minority Youth Violence Prevention
Initiative. The initiative is a partnership of the Office of Minority Health at the US Department of Health and Human
Services, and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the U.S. Department of Justice that encourages
collaboration among public health organizations, law enforcement agencies, and community-based groups. Our podcast
series highlights innovative approaches at the nine demonstration sites that have received funding under the program.

In today’s podcast, I’m speaking with Sheryl Sams, director of the Youth Intercept Program, an
anti-violence program in Chatham Country, Georgia, operated by the Chatham County district attorney’s office
in partnership with Memorial Health University Medical Center, the Chatham County Public Schools, and other local
justice system agencies. Youth Intercept provides educational services and referrals to public health services to
at-risk youth, particularly black males between the ages of 10 to 18. This podcast focuses on how Youth Intercept
has adapted the hospital-based violence intervention model to meet the needs of Chatham County, including the program’s
development of a school-based element to serve youth in the Chatham County Public Schools.

thank you for speaking with me today, and welcome. What is Youth Intercept?

SAMS: Youth Intercept
is basically a violence intervention program. We work first to assist individuals who actually come in the hospital
between the ages of 12 and 25 to break the cycle of violence first, to encourage positive interactions in the community,
to assist in decreasing the amount of retaliation in our community, as well as re-offenses and re-admissions to the
hospital. The other aspect of that is the prevention piece, where we are working with individuals in our school systems,
kids in our school systems between the ages of 12 and 20 who are having behavioral issues or truancy issues, or any
of those things that may be a concern to the school system as far as teachers or social workers as well as parents
that may be alarming to them that there’s a possibility of those children actually committing crimes or getting
into trouble. We work with them to actually develop positive self-esteem and give them other avenues of engagement
in the community that are positive.

POPE-SUSSMAN: The Youth Intercept Program has received funding
under the Minority Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, which is really focused on partnerships between law enforcement
and public health. I was wondering if you could talk about how that model fits into the work that is being done at
Youth Intercept.

SAMS: We are, with the district attorney office of course, it is a law enforcement
entity. What we do is, instead of trying to put people behind bars, we’re trying to keep them out, particularly
with our youth, just being able to work together to change the way that our young people think about law enforcement.
Typically, as they’re growing, they get this negative impression of law enforcement, and they think that we’re
there to harm them. However, with this partnership, we’re able to create healthy relationships between the two.
It really works well.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Your program is based on the hospital-based violence intervention
model that was created by Youth Alive in Oakland. I was wondering if we could talk about how the model works at Youth
Intercept, and how you’ve adapted it for your jurisdiction.

SAMS: Really, it works hand in
hand, pretty much the same. We are at a hospital, we’re at Memorial University Medical Center. We have a collaboration
with them, and we are able to work directly in the hospital. Our office is located 100 feet away from the ER, which
allows us to respond immediately to victims of violence and intentional injuries. They allow us to have pagers, so
we have pagers on us at all time. At that point, any time a victim of a violent intentional injury actually is seem
in the ED, we get a page letting us know that that person is there. It gives specific information on the age and
race of the individual as well as the type of injury. We’re able to respond immediately.

addition to that, we work with the medical staff, the trauma staff, which actually contacts us as well. We’re
able to work with them immediately within a 24-hour period, just depending on the type of injury they have. We also
work with their family members if there’s a situation where the injured party cannot talk at that time. We are
at the hospital waiting to talk to family members to get pertinent information so that we’re able to move forward
with that client.

Once we have contact with the client or family member, we basically offer them
what we call Georgia Crimes Compensation, which allows them an opportunity to have their hospital bills paid up to
$15,000 as well as counseling. If the person is working, it allows them economic support for reimbursement of $10,000,
and in the event that that person [expires 00:06:15], Georgia Crimes Compensation can actually pay up to $6,000.
We inform either the family member or the injured party about the resources that are available to assist, and then
we inform them about our Youth Intercept Program, and what services we can provide. Upon leaving the hospital, we
set up an appointment with them to then work with them on a case management plan.

In the original Youth Alive model, there was not a school-based component, and I know that’s something the district
attorney she brought in when she came into office. I’m wondering how your office thinks that fits into the model?

SAMS: Well, I would say that with the data that we collected over the years with the hospital-based portion
of the program, we saw that there was a lot of the victims that have some of the same background information such
as truancy issues and school, and the reason why they actually dropped out of school. There were certain risk factors
that we saw that lead us to the school system. We felt there was a need to reach out to the schools and say hey,
let’s get this program started so that we can prevent other youth from coming into the hospital if we work on
the side of eliminating the issues that they have on the front end so that they don’t end up in the hospital
or perhaps deceased.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What are the results you’ve seen?

I would say definitely we’re having a huge success rate in the sense that we actually had about 1% of the individuals
that we’re working with who actually commit a re-offense. However, we’re seeing that there is an increase
in their education levels as well as their truancy rates, so they’re staying in school, they’re enrolled
into positive after-school activities, and are able to increase their academic scores. We’re seeing that that
has been a positive thing.

POPE-SUSSMAN: I’m wondering how you’re measuring outcomes.

With our school-based program, we measure the individual at intake, so we’re looking at their grades at intake,
and we compare it to their exit, as well as a midpoint of achievement. Also, looking at their truancy rate, how many
days they actually missed, when they entered our program, where were they at, and where are they now? We document
changes in behavior as well as during life skills, we do pre and post exams to determine if they are actually learning
from the life skills that we’re teaching. With the hospital-based program, we measure whether those individuals
have actually received certain services like mental health counseling and if they actually did not have a job, and
now they have a job. Or if they weren’t enrolled in school, and now they are enrolled in school. Those are some
of the things that we look at. Also, if there has been a re-offence or a re-injury, also looking at mental health.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Have you partnered with any sort of research organization?

SAMS: We are
actually working with Georgia Southern University; I think it’s the criminal justice department that will actually
work directly with us to gather data to be able to do it in a research-based form.

Fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

SAMS: Thank you, I certainly
appreciate it. It’s been delightful.

POPE-SUSSMAN: This has been Rafael Pope-Sussman with
the Center for Court Innovation, and I’ve been speaking with Sheryl Sams, the director of Youth Intercept. For
more information on the Center for Court Innovation, visit