Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Robert C. Garrett Statement on Bipartisan Gun Safety Deal and Addressing Gun Violence

June 14, 2022

Hackensack Meridian Health’s CEO Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, released the following statement today in regards to the bipartisan gun safety deal that was announced and addressing gun violence:

“Recently, our nation has been confronted with tragic mass shootings that are upending communities across our country – from Buffalo, New York, to Uvalde, Texas, to Tulsa, Oklahoma and countless others. From grocery stores to elementary schools, hospitals to places of worship, senseless acts of gun violence are occurring in areas that are supposed to be safe havens for our children and families. Unfortunately, recent events have only underscored that gun violence is not a political issue: it’s a public health crisis that demands urgent action.

I was encouraged to learn that Congress reached a bipartisan gun safety deal on Sunday. This agreement shows that our leaders can work toward the common good and advocate for common-sense solutions that will help save lives. While this is just a first step, we must keep this positive momentum going, and I hope that Congress will continue to build upon this progress to provide much-needed relief during this time of crisis for our nation. I would like to thank and recognize Senator Cory Booker for his leadership in reaching this historic bipartisan agreement. I would also like to thank Senator Bob Menendez for recognizing the pain that gun violence has caused in this country and fighting tirelessly to keep our communities safe.

As a health care organization, Hackensack Meridian Health is committed to healing and providing high-quality, compassionate care to the patients and communities we serve. Unfortunately, we see firsthand that gun violence is a pervasive public health crisis. Our team members are treating more and more victims of gun violence across our hospitals and emergency rooms.

The need for radical change is urgent. Every year, more than 45,000 Americans die from gun violence. We lose nearly 120 people every day, and 200 more are shot and suffer lifelong consequences from their injuries. Young men and communities of color are especially impacted. We can no longer sit back while our children and school communities become collateral damage. We must work together to break the familiar cycle: mass shootings, funerals, debates over gun control, and inaction. That is why I joined 18 other national health care leaders last year to urge Congress to pass President Biden’s $5 billion hospital and community-based gun violence prevention plan to stem the record number of deaths. In our letter, we called for robust and lasting action to save lives, and we are still waiting for bold action to end the gun violence epidemic.

Healthcare is increasingly moving beyond the hospital's walls to meet the needs of communities. We understand that reducing gun violence isn't just a mission for law enforcement or lawmakers—it requires a multidisciplinary approach. Beyond the injury and trauma that victims endure long after they leave a hospital, the cost of treating the initial hospital visits for gunshot victims is more than $25 billion annually in treatment expenses and lost productivity, according to the CDC. That does not include the significant ongoing costs and social/emotional issues suffered by virtually every victim of gun violence. That is why our network worked to launch Project HEAL (Help, Empower and Lead), a hospital-based initiative that provides support services such as counseling, higher education, job training, and legal assistance to victims of violence and interventions to reduce the cycle of violence.

As a health care network, we can do our part by helping patients who are impacted by the trauma of gun violence. We must improve access to care and end the stigma around mental health issues. Our network continues to expand access to care and better coordinate treatment and innovative therapy. Unfortunately, our nation is experiencing a shortage of specialists and mental health care providers, so our work to advance behavioral health care for patients, increase education, and increase the number of trained physicians is more important than ever.

Gun violence deaths are preventable and have long-lasting, traumatic effects on our communities. We must do more to prevent gun violence and address this crisis once and for all. I hope our elected officials will support this bipartisan framework and create a better future for our children.”

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