You matter.

That’s the message Tammie Jones-Hall shares with people affected by community violence in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Hall, a violence intervention specialist with Novant Health, is launching a new violence intervention program at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Her job: working to stop the cycle of community violence by helping victims and their surrounding community find the tools and resources they need to move on in life. And Hall has seen firsthand the toll community violence can take. As an employee of Lutheran Social Services and Pathways Inc. for Brothers United Program, she aided in serving the gang and incarceration reentry populations in Detroit and Ohio.

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“It led me to navigate within the community,” she said. “Once I found an avenue where I was able to use this skill, I was glad to do it. I wanted these men to know they matter, and there is help for them.”

Hall began her career with community-based groups when she joined AmeriCorps in the 2000s. That led her to Catholic Charities of New York where she worked with community outreach programs. Several moves later, Hall came to Wilmington, where she was hired as a community health worker. Community health workers typically work closely with families to help address underlying problems that contribute to health challenges.

“I’ve been able to connect with a lot of people in my community – people share their knowledge of the community with me and I with them,” said Hall.

Community violence and gang related violence is an issue in Wilmington. Five people died in three gang-related incidents in 2021, according to the Wilmington Police Department’s annual report of homicides.

The violence intervention program, which just started this October, is headed by Sarah Arthur, director of community engagement at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. The hospital’s foundation is paying for the program for two years with a $200,000 grant. Hall said their focus right now is building positive community outreach.

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Hall’s role is to provide support and advocacy for victims of community violence, as well as families. Hall will receive the emergency department log every morning during the week to check for victims and point them in the right direction of services they may need. Hall may address weekend and nighttime incidents if she is available.

“I want to let them know I am here to provide whatever they need to provide stability in their lives,” she said. “I’m not making any promises, but asking their needs, whether it’s a referral, counseling, mediation or more.”

Hall will also try to help with problems that snowball and drag families into a bad situation. That could include trouble making rent, mental health challenges and more. She will also try to help people who may need a medical specialist and related financial assistance. It’s all part of Novant Health’s philosophy of treating the whole patient.

Megan Bolden, social work coordinator with community engagement at New Hanover, is Hall’s supervisor and said Hall brings a lot of skills and experience to the job.

“She’s a self-starter and takes tremendous pride in meeting her patients where they are. Tammie has fantastic communication skills and builds unimaginable rapport with the patients she serves,” Bolden said. “Tammie has incredible drive, a big heart and thick skin. Most importantly, she is a trusted peer and community member in New Hanover County.”

More than a Career

This role is more than just a calling; it touches Hall personally. Her father was incarcerated when she was young, so she understands the importance of keeping young men and fathers out of gangs and out of jail. Once her father completed his time, he wanted to make a good life for himself and his family, but found the world wasn’t as welcoming as he hoped. And a lot of advocacy programs are focused on helping women, she said. Hall said while she understands the importance of that, she also feels men need these programs too.

“They too deserve attention, support and advocacy,” she said. “I feel like I reached a lot of men my age, because in me they saw their daughters and mothers. I let them know it matters when they leave us behind, and I think it made an impact.”

The program is off to a strong start and Hall is hopeful that her role and the program will be effective.

“I am a part of my community and the community is a part of me,” she said. “I want them to know I am a safe person to speak with, and I am here to help however I can.”