One by one, members of a community caught in the center of the gun violence crisis came to the table, adjusted the microphone and told their stories.
Leaning in and listening intently were several members of Pennsylvania’s Special Council on Gun Violence, all seated in a large, second-floor room at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University’s Health Sciences Campus.
The council, created in August by Gov. Tom Wolf, has been traveling the state holding hearings, engaging stakeholders and identifying recommendations and best practices they believe will one day reduce gun violence. The council visited North Philadelphia on Dec. 5 for its fifth and final stop.
Among those waiting to testify was Dr. Kathleen Reeves, a pediatrician who is senior associate dean of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and the director of the Center for Urban Bioethics at Temple University.
Reeves is passionate about the work being done by Philadelphia CeaseFire Cure Violence, a public health violence intervention program housed at the bioethics center. The program, which originated in Chicago, was replicated in 2011 and operates in portions of the city’s 22nd and 39th Police Districts.
She firmly believes in the organization’s premise that the violence happening in communities is a public health issue and needs to be treated as such.
“Gun violence is as contagious as any other disease,” Reeves testifies. “We’ve known this for over 10 years. We see it each and every day and the wonderful people in this room live it each and every day.
“We need to be working the problem like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) would handle an epidemic: interrupt the spread, keep people away from the contagion and vaccinate them. Give (people) the opportunities and the tools that everyone deserves to be able to live a life free of violence.”
But in order to accomplish that, resources, including additional funding, are needed.
Reeves detailed recent research that reported a reduction in gun-related violence in a police district where the city’s Ceasefire Cure Violence program currently operates. Using a series of scenarios, she explained how the return on investment can increase when efforts go beyond the immediate and primary needs in the battle against gun violence.
“If we expand that effort to include secondary health care needs, mental health care needs, prison costs and lost wages, we actually see the return on investment go up,” she says.
Reeves was able to show examples in her testimony with the assistance of a modeling tool created by an MBA student team at Fox Management Consulting (FMC). The team’s members, Ethan Kannel, Rebecca Wolf, Megha Aggarwal, Alexandra Alicea and Vidya Sabbella, did the client consulting work as part of their MBA capstone course with FMC.
“The tool is a dynamic and flexible system that takes into account all of the variables that impact the cost of gun-related violence, ranging from immediate medical costs like ER care through societal consequences such as incarceration,” says Donald Phillips, FMC project executive for the student team.
“The students’ experience was a total immersion in this healthcare issue, from a political, sociological and economic point of view. You’re not always going to get that opportunity.”
Kannel, who was at the hearing with Rebecca Wolf, was pleased to see the team’s work included in the day’s testimony.
“A lot of schoolwork that you do, you think it won’t go anywhere,” Kannel says. “But the day after we presented our project, we heard our numbers in a hearing.”
Wolf was grateful that her experience with the project was used in an impactful way.
“The most important work we did in the project was related to finances and that was used directly in the hearing,” says Wolf. “It’s a great feeling.”
Now that the hearings are done, the panel will begin its assessment.
“It is important to note that today’s discussion serves as a starting point for the work of the special council to listen to and learn from individuals with both professional and life experience and expertise,” says Mike Pennington, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Fox Professor Donald Phillips and TL Hill, professor of strategic management and managing director of Fox Management Consulting and Executive Education, recently co-authored an opinion piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Read that piece here.
For more information about FMC projects, click here.