Yale New Haven Hospital entrances

Shooting victims and their families are now eligible to receive one-time checks worth up to $1,000 apiece — thanks to an expanded hospital-led cash transfer program focused on supporting targets of interpersonal abuse while disrupting a broader cycle of social violence.

That’s the latest initiative among a growing number of unconditional, direct cash transfer programs popping up in New Haven. 

This effort provides prepaid Mastercards to clients of Yale New Haven Hospital’s Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP). Each one-time cash transfer will be worth $500 for eligible participants who are victims of interpersonal violence, or $1,000 for the next of kin of victims of homicide.

“This is somewhat new ground nationally,” said James Dodington, the medical director for Yale New Haven Hospital’s Center for Injury and Violence Prevention. ​“We know $500 isn’t a huge amount to support folks. It’s really about crisis support.”

Dodington is one of the individuals administering the roll-out of the pilot, which formally launched back in February and will run through January of this coming year.

A $75,000 pot of money raised in private dollars by nonprofit 4‑CT, one of the organizations which recently launched a year-long guaranteed income program for formerly incarcerated individuals, means that over 100 individuals affected by interpersonal violence in Greater New Haven will have access to one-time crisis cash.

HVIPs are a nationwide model that provide secondary care for people who are admitted to the hospital after experiencing acts of violence. Through HVIPs, patients receiving immediate care for physical injuries are further connected to mental health counseling, housing assistance, child care, transportation and safety planning, among other holistic services. 

Dodington said that roughly 100 patients enroll in Yale’s HVIP each year. Most of them are survivors of gun violence. Others are victims of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, or other acts of interpersonal violence.

Kyle Fischer, the policy director for The Health Alliance for Violence Intervention, the organization which oversees and advocates for the implementation of HPIVs across the country, lauded the roll-out of the pilot. She wrote Friday email press release, ​“We know that in order to address violence in our communities, we must go upstream and empower those most closely affected by it. We are optimistic that this effort will not only save lives but promote positive transformational change for patients in Connecticut.”

The no-strings-attached model means that recipients can spend the cash however they want. According to Dodington, the money often goes to getting food on the table or a shirt on one’s back. Others use the cash to buy needed medicine they may not have otherwise been able to afford.

Yale New Haven Hospital previously paid for the HVIP to give clients around $250 as needed to help them meet immediate expenses upon release from rehabilitation. 4‑CT’s involvement means that HVIP can double or in some cases quadruple the amount of money going to clients — $1,000 will be made available for families who lost a relative to gun violence, for example, to cover outstanding costs like funeral expenses.

While other cash assistance programs, such as 4‑CT’s reentry pilot, often experiment with providing small groups of individuals with regular cash infusions over an extended period of time, this new pilot will provide a larger population with one-time support with an underlying goal of reducing cyclical violence that plagues communities across the country, including New Haven.

Friday’s press release laments, in particular, a rise in victims of firearm homicide in Connecticut from 137 in 2018 – 2019 to 241 in 2020 – 2021, particularly among Black and Hispanic residents, a statistic provided by the state Department of Public Health.

“Victims of violence face not only physical injuries but also psychological and emotional disturbances associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance use disorder. Many victims of violence suffer from repeat victimization and, in urban settings, researchers estimate that up to 41 percent of patients treated for violent injury are reinjured within five years, placing a significant cost on health systems and communities alike. What’s more, Everytown for Gun Safety reports that homicide in the US accounts for $280 billion in costs to taxpayers, survivors, families, employers and communities,” the release continues. 

All $75,000 will go directly to participants in the pilot, Dodington stated. Yale University is also funding separate research that will track the implementation of the program and its outcomes. For example, clients will answer questionnaires inquiring about their stress levels before and after cash assistance. Social workers employed by HPIV have already expressed heightened feelings of empowerment since receiving a new resource with which to aid clients experiencing tragedy, according to Dodington. 

Dodington also said that more individuals are already enrolling in HPIV following press coverage and advertisements about the pilot. In other words, people’s need for cash is prompting them to sign up for assistance from HPIV, which in turn means they’re connecting with other resources like housing help and mental health supports that they otherwise would not have sought out themselves.

In that sense, Dodington said, cash assistance promises not just to help people take action in times of need, but to provide more people with intensive case management. ​“That can have significant implications for reducing further injury,” he said, ​“as well as breaking cycles of violence, such as in family units — you can provide services that have corollary effects on someone like a little brother living in the same house.”