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Shooting victims receive help at ECMC with mental trauma

Counselors also feel the burden and impact of gun violence. Specifically assigned mental health counselors there assist victims and their families.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Gun violence has scarred some Buffalo communities as shootings rise. At Erie County Medical Center, they work tirelessly to help people survive with trauma to the body.

Of course, there is also trauma to the mental well being of victims and their loved ones. Counselors are there to help, and it is difficult for them as well.

Besides the round-the-clock medical treatment by doctors and nurses at ECMC to save the lives of shooting victims, specifically assigned mental health counselors also assist those victims and their families. 

A federally funded and state-run program covers a psychologist and up to four social workers, and they can be very effective at that very emotional time, which is perhaps a crucial turning point in the lives of victims.

Coordinator Paula Kovanic Spiro explains.

"You've been shot. I mean, this is frightening, and so at that moment, it's kind of a, from what we know from other programs, is that it allows sort of this insight, this moment of vulnerability, to be able to realize you know I don't want to die," she said.

"I don't want this to happen. And so it can be your path toward thinking about other options."

So the connected and also government-funded SNUG, or Should Never Use Guns, program comes into play with three hospital responders who also help victims and families. But they go on to help the victims transition back into the community with education and employment opportunities.

SNUG program manager Darryl Scott says, "We actually are spending time with them through the whole process. So it's not just, 'Oh, you need schooling? OK, go here. You know, have a good day.' With us it's, 'You need schooling? Let us go with you.' "

However, the COVID pandemic and the seemingly unrelenting surge in shootings has been hard on the counselors, as well those who worked through COVID.

Kovanic Spiro points out: "We can't afford to be burned out because, in my opinion, our work is too important. But yeah, summers are very difficult, you know. I just think it hurts."  

And Scott added: "The community has become so desensitized with the violence. It's a recurring thing. It's ongoing trauma, so you know, just kind of talking with people about that as well. The importance of it. The mental health aspect."