A February 3, 2014 ProPublica article reports that 43 percent of victims of violence seen at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital present signs of experiencing PTSD. Chicago is not unique. Other large city hospitals that see a large number of shooting or stabbing victims also believe PTSD is prevalent among their patients.
After reading the ProPublica article , Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT) gave his support for Medicaid-funded PTSD screening and treatment for young people who have had an experience with gun violence. As quoted in the New Haven Independent, Murphy asserted, “Gun violence is a public health issue. Since gun violence affects kids’ health why not make Medicaid money available to kids who experience trauma? Click here to go to website.
The ProPublica article raises an important question. Why don’t hospitals screen victims of violence for PTSD as a matter of course? The answer is complex. Medicare and Medicaid might not reimburse cash-strapped hospitals for PTSD screenings. Racism and lack of empathy for victims of violence play a role, as does a lack of support for screening.
ProPublica quotes one trauma surgeon as stating “Most people still think that all the people who get shot were doing something they didn’t need to be doing. I’m not saying it’s the racist thing, but everybody thinks it’s a young black men’s disease: They get shot, they’re out selling drugs. We’re not going to spend more time on them.” Although that wasn’t the surgeon’s or his hospital’s view, a certain mindset against some victims of violence certainly exists. And, although some victims of a violent act may already have PTSD, others may not present symptoms until months later, the article states.
According to article, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) can mandate PTSD screenings for all top trauma-level hospitals. Unless that happens, the consensus is that there will be a large number of people in our cities suffering from PTSD without understanding symptoms they are experiencing, and not seeking help for them.
The good news is that some hospitals are not waiting for the ACS to order their hospitals to screen patients for PTSD, but are setting up their own programs.