In Maywood, Sen. Durbin, Loyola Unite Against Gun Violence As Community Searches For Answers

Sunday, August 11, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin talks about gun violence and its socioeconomic roots during a visit to the Maywood Park District on Aug. 7. | Proviso Partners for Health

Two weeks after a double homicide rocked Maywood and two mass shootings less than a day apart rocked the nation, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited Maywood to discuss his Chicago HEAL initiative — a plan that involves the senator and 10 Chicago area hospitals, including Loyola University Medical Center, collaborating on ways of “strengthening neighborhood engagement to reduce violence and improve health,” according to a summary of the initiative available online.

“People say to me, ‘What are we going to do about the gun violence in America?’ I mean it’s horrible,” said Durbin during a town hall meeting held Aug. 7 at the Lightford Recreation Center, 809 Madison St. in Maywood. “The latest stories are heartbreaking stories.”

On Aug. 3, a 21-year-old gunman walked into a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and killed 22 people and wounded 24 others in what law enforcement officials believe was a hate crime. Less than 24 hours later, on Aug. 4, 10 people were killed and 27 wounded during a shooting in Dayton, Ohio.

“And then, of course, we know what happens in our own communities,” Durbin said. “In my hometown of East St. Louis, Maywood, Chicago — you name it. On the weekends, the guns start blazing.”

Durbin also referenced the case of Dean Stansberry, a Maywood man who was murdered in a double homicide outside of his home on July 30 — a few months after his stepson, Isiah Scott, was fatally shot in the village.

“That was the most heart-breaking thing,” Durbin said, of Stansberry’s death.

The senator said that the most obvious solution to the problem of gun violence — banning high-powered assault weapons and enacting other gun laws that would make owning guns much tougher — is “not likely,” given that Republicans control the U.S. Senate and the presidency.

 “I had reached a point of frustration. I’m thinking, ‘I’m elected to this office, I’m supposed to solve these problems, I’m supposed to make life better, what am I going to do?’ Well, then something happened,” Durbin said, before recalling the origins of his HEAL initiative. “I visited Rush Hospital.”

Durbin said that he sat down with a physician and a former alderman who were proposing a program that would “look outside the hospital at the neighborhood we live in and we are going to try to make that neighborhood better.”

According to the summary released by Durbin’s office, efforts “to prevent and reduce gun violence must address the trauma and toxic stress in our communities and address socioeconomic determinants of health.”

The summary identifies a series of “root, structural factors” that contribute to disparities in wellbeing between wealthy and poor residents — including economic disinvestment, segregation, institutional racism, poor education and high unemployment.

The 10 Chicago area hospitals — which along with Loyola also include Northwestern Medicine, Sinai Health System, the University of Chicago Medicine and Rush Unviersity Medical Center, among others — have each committed to increasing local hires, supporting community partnerships like affordable housing pilot programs, and prioritizing certain in-hospital clinical practices like implicit bias and cultural competency training.

Although Maywood is not one of HEAL’s 18 “focus neighborhoods” (all of them are in Chicago), Loyola Medicine President and CEO Shawn P. Vincent indicated that the village, and Proviso Township as a whole, is a high priority for the institution.

During the Aug. 7 town hall, Vincent said that, according to a community health needs assessment Loyola conducted, the average life expectancy in Maywood and Melrose Park is 75 while in River Forest its 85. And nearly 40 percent of residents in Loyola’s service area are 200 percent below the federal poverty level. The state average for residents living below the federal poverty level is 30 percent, he said.

“For us, it is much more than being a hospital or one of the largest employers in the community,” Vincent said. “It is really about being an active partner in the community we serve. This is our backyard. This is our community.”

A major aspect of Loyola’s approach to addressing gun violence and other public health concerns in Proviso Township, including childhood obesity, is Proviso Partners for Health — the network of local organizations and community stakeholders that have launched a wide array of quality of life initiatives over the last several years. Loyola is a founding anchor member and funder of PP4H.

Bishop Reginald Saffo addresses the audience during Sen. Dick Durbin’s Aug. 7 town hall in Maywood. | Proviso Partners for Health

Representatives from PP4H, which hosted Durbin’s Aug. 7 event, focused on its Veggie RX program. The program allows area residents to shop for affordable produce throughout the summer at Loyola Center for Health, 1211 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Maywood, every Thursday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Those with a LINK card qualifies for free produce. The program has also been hosted by the Maywood Park District.

Bishop Dr. Reginald Saffo, the chairman of the Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance Network, said that his organization established the Urban First Responders Program in collaboration with Loyola.

“The principal is to prepare the churches to interact with hospitals to provide that continuity of care beyond the doors of the hospital, so we have a training piece in place already,” Saffo said, adding that he’s looking to partner with other hospitals in the city, such as Loretto in Austin.

But some people among the roughly 50 attendees at last Wednesday’s town hall urged Loyola and Durbin to do even more to ensure that programs are reaching the most vulnerable and at-risk people in communities.

“We have a lot of programs,” said PP4H co-founder Loretta Brown. “But most of them reach out to kids who are probably ready to be engaged. The difficult kids we don’t want them in our facilities … We shy away from them. So, we need to think about reaching out to those marginal kids.”

Randall McFarland, the founder of the nonprofit Best of Proviso Township, said that programming “is actually more impactful for those who need it. We’ve seen families and students who are middle-class and up getting help and assistance, when they really don’t need it versus that student coming from a foster home.”

Maywood Trustee Nathaniel George Booker acknowledged Loyola’s many community outreach initiatives, but challenged the hospital to improve the quality of its outreach.  

“What I would like to see is more so that you’re not just coming to do a research study, but that you’re actually coming to be a human,” he said, adding that he’d like to see more of the hospital’s programming done in the communities it serves; rather than on its campus.

Lena Hatchett, a co-founder of PP4H and the director of community and university partnerships at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, said that the hospital’s role in addressing some of the issues that affect communities like Maywood is a work-in-progress — one that requires some radical innovation.

Amy Luke, a professor at Stritch and longtime Maywood resident, mentioned one example of that kind of radical innovation. Luke said that this month she and a group of community members and Loyola staffers, including Hatchett, are flying to Los Angeles to attend Father Greg Boyle’s Home Boy Industries Workshop on how to develop economic opportunities for young people. Boyle’s program focuses particularly on decreasing the recidivism rate among formerly incarcerated young people.

“I’m hoping we come back with an outline, a blueprint, so that we can continue to strengthen this relationship and actually create some real economic opportunities for the youth in the community,” Luke said. VFP

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