It’s a sunny and warm late-spring day in Wilmington, North Carolina. Edward Taylor sits at a round table in a Novant Health office near Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center, calmly stirring cream and sugar into a cup of coffee. Ask him how he’s doing, and he replies, “God is good.”
You’d never guess that one month ago, he was crumpled on the side of the road only about 2 miles from the hospital, bleeding from a gunshot wound in his right leg.
The bullet knocked him off the bike he was riding and lodged in his thigh, just an inch away from his femoral artery. Although he heard the pops, Taylor didn’t fully realize what had happened until a police officer approached him and he heard the words over the radio transmission: shots fired.
Taylor was a victim of community violence, caught in gang crossfire while riding his bike near downtown Wilmington.
After surgeons removed the bullet from Taylor’s thigh and stitched him up, he walked away from the hospital feeling like his future was uncertain. As a parent of three young men and a worker who is accustomed to hard physical jobs like road flagging and landscaping, he wasn’t sure whether he could make a full recovery to resume his daily life.
Until, that is, Tammie Jones-Hall called him to reassure him he could. Jones-Hall is the violence intervention specialist at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. She spearheaded a new violence intervention program at the hospital in fall 2022. With financial backing through the Novant Health Foundation, she’s working to connect victims of community violence with the resources they need for recovery.
“Since October 2022, when the program started, and I'm just in this role by myself, I have seen over 100 people,” Jones-Hall said. With the violence intervention protocol Jones-Hall follows, she assists each individual for 12 months, so she’s still working with her first contacts, and continues to add new individuals, including Taylor, each week.
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Working toward equity
For men and women like Taylor who are victims of community violence, the opportunity to get a fresh new start is invaluable. A gunshot wound or stab injury can snowball into a series of hardships that can put entire families at risk. And, Jones-Hall pointed out, people of color are disproportionately affected by community violence.
“There are a lot of disparities amongst the Black and brown people and a lot of things that are not fairly distributed,” she said. “I'm hoping that we can just bridge an understanding to where we're looking past color. We're looking past where someone has come from, what their experiences have been, and just looking at a human.”
This mission of equity and justice for all community members is one Novant Health shares with a recently developed department in New Hanover County called Port City United. This violence-prevention program uses the evidence-based Cure Violence Global model to provide mediation and mentorship in New Hanover County Schools and within the community. They also operate a free 24/7 call center where community members can seek resources and anonymously report threats of violence.
Rashad Gattison, director of Port City United, calls Jones-Hall a “vital part” of the organization’s mission and his team. She creates an essential connection between the two organizations, identifying individuals with trauma injuries who can benefit from working with Port City United’s mediators.
“I don’t think we could have picked anyone better than Tammie,” Gattison said. “She’s in tune with our mission and the mission at Novant Health.”
Every morning, Monday through Friday, Jones-Hall receives a copy of New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s trauma log, including a list of individuals who have suffered gunshot wounds and stabbings. That’s how she found Taylor. She meets some patients in the hospital or calls them if they’re discharged quickly. Taylor said that after he walked out of the hospital wondering what would happen next, Jones-Hall was a godsend, showing him opportunities in the community and helping him pursue them.
“She goes over and beyond. She calls me and checks on me, her care for me just is phenomenal,” Taylor said. “She's been a great help with me getting rehabilitated and with the resources that she's been providing, showing me and assisting me with staying on top of them, and just letting me know to keep pushing. Doors are opening up.”
When it comes to locating and accessing services for her people, Jones-Hall leaves no stone unturned. Her years of experience working in jobs where she assisted people living in difficult situations in Michigan and Ohio granted her the expertise she needs to make her an effective advocate.
She assists individuals with the thorough documentation needed to receive wage and medical bill reimbursement through the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). And she makes sure they receive the follow-up appointments and treatments they need through Novant Health.
To ensure families don’t go hungry, she contacts food banks and charities when individuals are not eligible for federal assistance. She also helps the uninsured get medical insurance, which is one of the changes Taylor is most excited and grateful for. He now has medical coverage with Blue Cross Blue Shield.
She also connected Taylor with Coastal Horizons, a crisis intervention and mental health advocacy organization based in eastern North Carolina, to ensure he receives the emotional support he needs. Taylor said that these are services he wouldn’t have known were available to him if he didn’t have Jones-Hall’s guidance.
“We’re working with a lot of different organizations, really getting great assistance,” Taylor said. “It’s been helpful to make me a better man and rehabilitate me.”
Jones-Hall emphasizes that while her job is to create connections for her people, she doesn’t do all the heavy lifting for them. She’s quick to point out that Taylor, even while recovering from a traumatic injury, has put in work.
“If there's a main goal that he wants, such as insurance, I give him his role and what he has to do,” she explained. “Then on my end, this is what I'll do, and we'll meet right in the middle. So it's not overbearing for either one. He's not doing all the work and feeling left alone. And I'm not left with all the work on me. We work together as a team.”
Bringing love and praise
Jones-Hall’s work isn’t just her work. It’s her mission, her passion and her service to her community. She brings dynamism and energy to everything she does, because she recognizes the power of the connection she’s creating with each and every person.
“It’s more than just bringing resources to my people,” Jones-Hall said. “I try to bring positivity, I try to bring love and praise and let them know, ‘You are beautiful.’ And we are beautiful as people of color. They don't really get to hear that.”
For other victims of community violence, Jones-Hall and Taylor have a unified message to share: You matter. Don’t give up. Resources are here for you.
“Listen to my story, my testimony,” Taylor said. “I’m putting it out there, maybe somebody is able to read it and know that they can keep pushing, because it does get better.”