Gun Violence – Healthcare Editorial

Gun violence is one of the top healthcare crises occurring in our nation today.  The reminders of this crisis are becoming far too frequent and are costing the country the lives of innocent mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, grandparents, and even our children.

We see gun violence in St. Louis daily, and the recent massacre in Las Vegas prompts me, as the Chief Executive Officer of Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers, Incorporated (MHDCHC) to highlight the dire need for strengthening our healthcare systems, expanding Medicaid in Missouri and other states, and extending funding for the integration of mental and behavioral health services.

The clinical staff at MHDCHC serves patients who are directly affected by violence.  There are even rare cases when violence occurs at our front door, and we are forced to provide care until police and paramedics arrive.  Several months ago, our nurses ran out into the streets of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive to care for a young mother who had been shot as she attempted to drive away from a conflict.  The woman’s car had crashed in front of our health center.  Our staff assisted the victim’s two-year old child who was also in the vehicle at the time of the shooting.  The team worked through a scene of mass chaos and devastation without flinching.

Mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas increase fear and turbulence throughout the nation, and the physical, psychological, and emotional turmoil experienced daily by those living in crime-ridden neighborhoods is incalculable.  A recent article in Money Watch magazine estimated the cost of gun violence in the nation to be well over 100 billion dollars in lost wages, lower property values, and higher taxes.

A healthy and educated public is crucial to a safe and productive society.  We must be the advocates for our people and our communities.  Many healthcare initiatives are currently being debated such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid expansion, and the state of the Affordable Care Act. Millions of children will lose coverage if CHIP funding is lost.  Missouri desperately needs Medicaid expansion.  The Affordable Care Act should be strengthened and supported because it has allowed working-class people access to care they could not otherwise afford.

This country is also seeing the results of a lack of integrated mental and behavioral healthcare.  A study by the American Psychological Association estimates that approximately half (50%) of all individuals will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.  The impact of gun violence is far-reaching. In addition to the victims, the nurses, physicians, police, and emergency responders are also psychologically affected.  This is just one reason why we have to push for proactive healthcare policies and initiatives.  Senator Roy Blunt’s Excellence in Mental Health Act is a great step forward and requires additional support to extend beyond the life of two years and to reach further than eight states.  We thank Senator Blunt ® and Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D) as well as organizations such as Missouri Primary Care and the Regional Health Commission, who have been on the forefront of fighting for change and supporting the healthcare needs of their communities.  At MHDCHC, we believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege.  It is time to come together to save our families and communities.  We’re in a state of emergency, and as leaders and advocates, we must be the voice for those who need us most.