Addressing the Impacts of Violence in Our Communities

BCBSIL partners with grassroots organizations with proven track records of combatting issues associated with violence to help shape the way people think about violence as a public health issue.

Elevating the Conversation

Each year, more than 30,000 people are killed with guns in the U.S. That’s more than those who die of AIDS, and about the same number that die in car crashes or from liver disease. [1] Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) believes that community stakeholders have a role to play in addressing the toll the violence epidemic has on our members, their families and our communities.

In 2015, BCBSIL began discussions with community experts to better understand how we could support organizations working to address the causes of violence, interrupt it before it happens, and help heal our communities that experience violence. Our intent was to enter a space from a health perspective and empower communities and grassroots organizations with proven track records of combatting issues associated with violence.

In 2017, BCBSIL increased funding by 72 percent to partners proactively addressing issues associated with violence. This helped communities reproduce, thrive and give back.

BCBSIL is the only insurer participating in the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a coalition committed to funding proven and promising approaches to reducing violence.

Our Investments at Work on the Ground

In Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, children are no stranger to violence. BCBSIL partnered with UCAN’s North Lawndale Violence Prevention and Trauma Treatment Project, which provides street level clinical intervention programs. This includes intensive, evidence-based clinical counseling services, trauma-informed mentoring and educational engagement. To reduce the recurrence of violence, UCAN draws in youth who are at risk of being involved in violence, using tested predictive indicators such as being recent victims of a shooting, injury from a violent act or admitting active gang involvement.

Behavioral health services are critical in helping those who have been exposed to violence overcome its traumatic impact. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, an observation of the relationship between trauma in early childhood and morbidity, disability and mortality in the United States, demonstrated that trauma and other adverse childhood experiences are associated with lifelong behavioral health and general health problems[2].

The good news is that with the right interventions that include mental health support and other wraparound services, those that have experienced violence may thrive again. The Youth Guidance Becoming A Man (BAM) and Working on Womanhood (WOW) programs do just that. These programs fill a critical need for culturally competent mental health supports. BCBSIL’s grant to BAM and WOW allows Youth Guidance to extend lifelines to more vulnerable youth, drawing upon their strengths and talents, improving their emotional regulation, decision-making skills, interpersonal competencies and positive future orientation. This helps ensure that they are successful socially, emotionally and academically.

Additional violence prevention funding support was provided to:

  • Mikva Challenge’s Chicago Youth Health Activism Initiative which helps youth from divested communities become empowered, informed and active citizens who will promote a just and equitable society.
  • TASC, Inc.’s Supportive Release Center which provides a space upon release from jail to connect individuals to health care and services that will help stabilize them in the community and build well-being.

With continued support of grassroots organizations, BCBSIL hopes to expand the capacity of existing programs and influence how our communities think about this critically important public health issue.

Visit our website, Making the Health Care System Work, to learn how Dr. Damon Arnold, a medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, is working with University of Chicago Medicine and community organizations on Chicago’s South Side to address social factors driving gun violence.


[1]Funding and Publication of Research on Gun Violence and Other Leading Causes of Death. Jan. 3, 2017.

[2]Felitti, V.J., & Anda, R.F. (2010) The relationship of adverse childhood experiences to adult medical disease, psychiatric disorders, and sexual behavior: Implications for healthcare. In R. Lanius & E. Vermetten (Eds.). The hidden epidemic: The impact of early life trauma on health and disease. Cambridge University Press.