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Even Doc Seeks Cure For Guns

June 10, 2006

As a resident physician for a North Hartford medical practice, Dr. Tim Lishnak doesn't just view the young victims of the city's latest shooting spree as unfortunate street casualties.

Several of those getting shot or killed are patients of the Asylum Hill Family Practice.

The Woodland Street facility serves the mostly poor neighborhoods in the North End. Doctors are in the business of helping patients live long lives. So, when they see young people stabbed, shot or snuffed out, even the docs start wondering what they could be doing to quell the violence.

"We commonly see them in the hospital and unfortunately we started to realize that a lot of them are coming from our patient population, which draws heavily from the North End," said Lishnak, in his second year of the University of Connecticut/St. Francis Medicine Residency Program.

"Our perspective is how can we get to them earlier, or the parents, who are often single mothers, to try to find ways to stem this a little bit."

The common reaction from patients, young and old, is "I'm scared," Lishnak said. Some parents are pulling their kids out of Hartford schools and sending them to nearby suburbs.

The ramifications of street violence and the resulting fear can have a compounding aftershock: Schools and neighborhoods may see an exodus. State and city budgets are drained to deal with the reassigning of state police to the city and the increased overtime for Hartford police who, by union contract, must be on patrol with their state brethren. Potential homeowners might start thinking twice. Ditto for new businesses. And maybe even the booming year-old Connecticut Convention Center starts to suffer if out-of-towners fear for their lives.

Lishnak sees another ramification of street violence - one rarely discussed: diminished health care.

Studies are showing that kids in the cities are registering a higher degree of diabetes and obesity than others. Exercise is always prescribed as the great elixir.

But when doctors make that suggestion to some city parents they express concern that "it's not safe for their children to go out on the streets and run around," Lishnak said.

"Most of our moms, who are really good moms trying to do the right thing, say `I never let him out of my sight,"' Lishnak said. "So, basically, the kid is stuck inside all day because the minute they get outside on the street, they're vulnerable."

The health issues affect the mischief makers too. A kid with a criminal record is less apt to find a job that provides decent health insurance. So, what's left is a short-term mindset to life and a compromised long-term health plan.

"The problem is pervasive from our perspective," Lishnak said.

He and some of his colleagues are meeting next week to discuss the growing violence, which has increasingly moved from retaliatory strikes to bystanders getting inadvertently clipped.

Meanwhile, other groups are also holding meetings trying to get a better grasp on this nonsense too. More than 200 young people and their parents are expected to attend today's "Safe Night" program at Fox Middle School from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A teen summit will be conducted June 23, 7:30 p.m., at Restoration Temple Deliverance Mission church in Hartford.

If you're keeping count, we got the community leaders, the police, the church folks, politicians - and even the medics - putting their attention to this.

All are trying to stitch together a plan to stop the madness.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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