Reach­ing out to youth

Modern Healthcare - - Opinions Letters - Nancy Fu­gate Vice pres­i­dent

No one un­der­stands the premises of “The cost of mur­der” (Nov. 30, 2009, p. 6) bet­ter than Sch­wab Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Hospi­tal’s In My Shoes fa­cil­i­ta­tors. In My Shoes is the award-winning vi­o­lence preven­tion pro­gram staffed by young African-Amer­i­can and Latino adults with vi­o­lently ac­quired dis­abil­i­ties.

In 1997, Sch­wab case man­ager Kris Ver­tiz and spinal cord in­jury physi­a­trist Michelle Git­tler could no longer stand see­ing the con­stant in­flux of teens with freshly ac­quired dis­abil­i­ties re­sult­ing from com­mu­nity vi­o­lence. They knew they had to do some­thing. Git­tler and Ver­tiz be­gan the process of iden­ti­fy­ing pa­tients whose out­looks about their street lives seemed to change when they ac­quired a dis­abil­ity.

Th­ese in­di­vid­u­als would form a core group of fa­cil­i­ta­tors for the vi­o­lence-preven­tion pro­gram In My Shoes. They visit schools and com­mu­nity groups, telling the sto­ries of their lives, how they ac­quired their dis­abil­i­ties and what it is like to live with a dis­abil­ity.

In My Shoes pre­sen­ters do not tell their au­di­ence mem­bers what to do or what not to do. They do tell them what to ex­pect based on the choices they make. The au­di­ence mem­bers—young teens from Chicago in­ner-city neigh­bor­hoods—know that they could die from street vi­o­lence. But they never think about be­com­ing dis­abled even though there are 3.3 in­stances of dis­abil­ity for ev­ery homi­cide re­sult­ing from gun­shot wounds.

Dur­ing its 12-year his­tory, In My Shoes fa­cil­i­ta­tors have touched the lives of 65,000 youths. They have shared their sto­ries as well as the re­al­ity of be­ing in a wheel­chair, catheter­ized con­stantly, sub­ject to pres­sure sores and chal­lenged in terms of sex­ual ac­tiv­ity. In post­p­re­sen­ta­tion sur­veys, 91% of In My Shoes au­di­ence par­tic­i­pants stated that af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion, they would think reg­u­larly about the con­se­quences of the choices they make.

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