Retaliation prevention starts by working with victims in the ER

New Orleans, La. - The CeaseFire program to prevent violence continues to grow. Members are already on the ground working with individuals in high-risk communities, and now they'll be even closer to the front lines by working in the emergency room.

Emotional decisions can be as deadly as gunfire.

CeaseFire participants say too often when a life is on the line on the operating table, another life is being threatened.

"As soon as there is penetrating trauma that occurs to a patient in an already identified high-prevalence area, the violence interrupters are contacted and asked to come to the hospital to begin their job as soon as possible," said Dr. Peter Deblieux, director of emergency medicine services at the LSU Interim Trauma Center.

Research from LSU Interim Hospital and from Chicago shows it's in the critical moments when someone is feeling the physical pain of an assault or watching a loved one grasping for life that the choice is often made to retaliate.

So as 30 doctors work at a time to save the life of a patient, a violence interrupter from CeaseFire New Orleans will be equally concerned with the life of someone who hasn't yet been injured.

They'll talk with family members and the patients about choosing peace.

"As soon as there's a window of opportunity, we want to have those conversations, because we know when you're at extremes, that's when you're most receptive to the message," said Deblieux. "That message being: The violence has to stop here."

Like many of the CeaseFire participants, the interrupters are usually from the violent neighborhoods and may even know the patients personally. This way, they're able to make personal connections and show the patients and the family that nothing is worth causing serious pain to anyone.

"It's petty, it don't make sense, and we have to get our young people to see that. Every fight is not worth fighting," said CeaseFire member Carman Demourelle.

Demourelle campaigns for CeaseFire where 1-year-old Londyn Samuels was shot and killed, and says responding to victims in the hospital is equally important.

"We mediate conflict. We do things to improve the mind. We say if you change the mindset, you change the person, and that's what CeaseFire is all about," said Demourelle.

So, as doctors rush to keep patients alive in the emergency room, the interrupters are behind the scenes working with families of victims.

They'll work with victims whether they were the target of violence or hit by a stray bullet.

"We see those patients as well," Deblieux said. "Whether it's a Mother's Day second line shooting, or whether it's a birthday party shooting, or whether it's what we saw this past weekend, there's a lot of innocent people who are being injured. But nobody, whether innocent or not innocent, deserves to be shot."

Like those who have consoled too many friends and have gone to too many vigils, the ER doctors have had enough of people dying on the operating table from wounds that started as emotional and ended in bloodshed.

The mayor's office made this statement about the program:

"Based on the CURE Violence model (formerly CeaseFire Chicago), which boasts a 40 percent to 45 percent reduction in shootings and killings in program target areas, CeaseFire New Orleans specifically aims to reduce street violence in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. In the fourth quarter of 2013, CeaseFire New Orleans will expand to include a new Hospital Crisis Intervention Team at the Interim LSU Hospital Trauma Unit.

The CeaseFire model uses violence interrupters and outreach workers with street credibility to interrupt and resolve potentially violence situations before they escalate. The CeaseFire Violence Interrupters also seek to prevent retaliatory shootings by mediating ongoing conflicts between groups. In addition, CeaseFire New Orleans aims to change community norms about violence by mobilizing support services and the larger community to demand a change in behaviors that lead to shootings and killings."