Working with local police and legislators, USA College of Medicine Trauma Surgeon Dr. Jon Simmons and his team were able to push for a new law enacted in September that requires all hospitals in Alabama to report gunshot wounds to law enforcement.
By Lindsay Mott
In an effort to make our local community safer, USA College of Medicine Trauma Surgeon Dr. Jon Simmons saw an opportunity to reduce injury and improve safety. Working with local police and legislators, he and his team were able to push for a new law enacted in September that requires all hospitals in Alabama to report gunshot wounds to law enforcement.
Before Sept. 1, Alabama was one of just three states that did not require hospitals to report gunshot wounds. If someone was brought to the hospital in a private vehicle or other non-official methods, these injuries were not reported – mainly due to HIPAA laws.
Because of this, there was a discrepancy between the number of gunshot wounds the trauma center treated each year and the number that the Mobile Police Department knew about. In 2017, this discrepancy was approximately 30 percent, according to Simmons.
Through their involvement with the Mobile Police Department’s Project THRIVE (Trauma Healing and Resiliency In the Wake of Violent Events) – a multi-disciplinary team comprised of various agencies working to fulfill the common goal of improving community safety – the trauma team worked with Mobile Police Department Commander Curtis Graves to develop legislation that requires hospitals to report any injury associated with gun violence.
“The Mobile Police Department then worked with Alabama State Representative Adline Clarke to support and introduce legislation that was then passed into law.” said Andrew Haiflich, USA Health director of trauma services. “The efforts of our unified collaboration have not only improved the safety of our community but also the safety of the entire state of Alabama.”
Alabama House Bill 288 went into effect on Sept. 1. With the new law and the mandatory reporting, Simmons believes this will help reduce gun violence in Mobile.
“With this new law in place, Mobile police will have a better picture of how often gun violence is occurring in our city,” Simmons said. “We have to approach gun violence like any other public health crisis, investigating it as such. I believe we’ll see a reduction in the amount of people affected by gunshot wounds through this approach.”