The UW Health Trauma Center reported an 80% increase in firearm injuries in 2020 and is expected to see similar levels in 2021.
UW hospitals reported treating 23 patients for firearm injuries in 2019. In 2020, that number rose to 42.
According to a March 2021 report conducted by Dane County, isolation and economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to an increase in violence, including an increase in firearm injuries.
“COVID-19 has brought a myriad of challenges,” the report stated. “Violence both in our community and in our homes has risen significantly, as a struggling economy, isolation and the stresses of the past year have left community members tired and on edge.”
UW Health Trauma Center is responsible for treating life-threatening injuries, including firearm injuries. The center is the one of two Level 1 trauma centers in Wisconsin.
Dr. Ann O’Rourke, medical director of the Adult Trauma Center at UW Health, said that the effects of gun violence harm patients’ loved ones and put patients at risk of facing more violence in the future.
“Patients who have been injured with firearms are at very high risk for experiencing future violence, and the acute psychological trauma for the patient oftentimes interferes with care and healing,” Dr. O’Rourke said. “The acute trauma is experienced not just by the patient, but also their family members and friends.”
UW Health Trauma Center has also partnered with community organizations to help prevent gun violence and reduce the impact of gun violence incidents on Dane County at large. The center hopes that partnerships will allow patients and their families to receive resources outside of hospital settings.
One of these organizations, Focused Interruption, responds to the scene of violent incidents and provides resources and assistance to patients and their families.
Focused Interruption founder Anthony Cooper stressed the importance of working with all parties involved in gun violence incidents to reduce harm to the wider community.
“We work on both sides not just with the victim but also the perpetrator because when incidents of violence happen, it affects everyone,” said Cooper.
Dr. O’Rourke added that the recent increase in gun violence incidents in Dane County is a cause for concern not just for the people directly involved, but the county as a whole.
“It’s not just that person,” she said. “It’s their entire family, their community that is affected. Not just physically but emotionally and psychologically.”