In the Burroughs | Children's Minnesota | The Kid Experts

Transforming hurt into healing: Next Step and Children’s Minnesota

Lauren Gilchrist
Lauren Gilchrist

I’m Lauren Gilchrist, senior director of the Collective for Community Health at Children’s Minnesota. The Collective’s mission is to improve the health of children and families – both inside and outside of our hospitals and clinics – through advocacy and by working with community partners. 

Community members told us one of their top health priorities right now is community safety, which led us to partner with Next Step, a hospital-based violence intervention program that connects survivors of violent injury to resources and support. We started working with Next Step in early 2023. Below, Next Step Director Kentral Galloway and Children’s Minnesota Social Worker Kati Kiely discuss how the program works and the difference it makes in the lives of young people and their families.  

What’s the goal of Next Step and how does it work? 

Kentral Galloway: Next Step helps survivors of violence and their families heal. Because we know people who are hurt tend to go back into the community and hurt other folks, we are working to heal people, to break that cycle of violence. Next Step is new to Children’s Minnesota, but we’ve been working with other hospitals in Minneapolis since 2016. 

The patients and families we work with have been through a traumatic experience they’ll never forget. They wonder how they’re going to move on with their lives. We give them a strong support system to help them start to do that.  

Kati Kiely: As a social worker at the Children’s Minnesota Minneapolis campus, I respond to Level 1 and Level 2 trauma patients who come in. While our nurses and doctors care for kids’ medical needs, I make sure patients and their families are connected to any non-medical resources they may need. So if a patient seems like a good fit for Next Step, I’ll first ask the family if they’re interested. If they are, I’ll call a Next Step responder and ask them to come to the hospital. Responders are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they’re really fast. The responder typically arrives within 30 minutes and then meets in person with the patient and their family. Patients seem to relate well with the Next Step responders.  

Kentral Galloway: When we meet with families, it’s really important that we start by building a relationship; that we meet folks where they are and not pass judgment on them. Often there’s a stigma that gets attached to folks who are survivors of violent crime. Sometimes they’re treated differently. Part of our work is wiping away that stigma, rehumanizing folks as they’re going through the hospital system and making sure they’re being treated equitably. When a survivor of gun violence shows up in our systems, we need to make sure we have empathy and not retraumatize them. 

Kentral Galloway
Kentral Galloway
Kati Kiely
Kati Kiely

From there, we don’t have a cookie cutter process for helping people. Everyone’s needs are different, so we work on building goals that are specific to them. We offer all kinds of support. We have an initiative that helps people understand how to cope with the anger that comes with being a survivor of a traumatic event. We help people find mental health support, with providers of color who look like them. Sometimes we help people financially for a bit. We can also help them find safe housing, if they’re not able to return home. Some people need our services for a couple of months, other people work with us for several years.   

What makes Next Step unique? 

Kentral Galloway: One reason why I really love this program is that it’s voluntary. I used to work in child protection, and I ran a residential unit. In those settings, people are forced to be part of that. With Next Step, there’s no forced participation and it’s based on what the patient and their family need. They tell us how they want to be helped instead of somebody telling them what they should do. The relationship that develops between us and our participants is genuine. It’s not forced. 

Kati Kiely: One of the hardest things about my job is not knowing what’s going to happen to our patients and families once they go out our doors. We’ve taken care of them, and we hope they follow up on the resources we’ve shared with them, but often we never know.  

Next Step is a great safety net, a bridge for patients and families from the hospital back out into the community. They’ve already formed a relationship with a Next Step responder in the hospital, and they know that responder is going to be there when they get out. They know they’re going to have somebody who’s going to meet them on the other side of the hospital doors and continue to help them long-term. 

Any last thoughts you’d like to share? 

Kati Kiely: It’s a privilege to work with Next Step. I’m really grateful for them. We’re seeing an increase in firearms injuries and it’s essential that we have trauma-informed care for our patients and families. I wish we had more programs to help survivors of violence. It’s the only way we’re going to solve it. 

Kentral Galloway: Being a survivor of violence is not normal. I want to make sure all of my colleagues who work in our health systems understand that, so we can make sure we have empathy and compassion when our community members show up on the worst day of their lives.   

Getting injured from a gunshot or other form of violence isn’t normal, but it can be a teachable moment. A chance to talk about what happened. To help survivors feel human again, that their life matters. A chance to talk about what their dreams are and to get their life back on track. A chance to interrupt the cycle of violence. With the right support, with the right care, people can heal.   

Lauren Gilchrist: Thanks Kentral and Kati for sharing with us your thoughts about and experiences with Next Step. Because we know that 80% of what affects a child’s health happens out in the community, it’s not enough to only address kids’ health when they come to our clinics and hospitals. To really help kids thrive, we have to extend our work to the places where children live, play and go to school. That’s why, like Kati, I’m so grateful for our collaboration with Next Step, and all of our community partners. 

Julianna Olsen