DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As gun violence continues to be a problem in Durham, city council members are considering moving forward with providing “listening sessions” for gun violence survivors and their families.
During Thursday afternoon’s city council work session, members of the Community Safety and Wellness Task Force and officials with Duke Health presented an updated proposal for what they are calling the “Prescriptions for Repair” Pilot Program.
Through this one-year pilot program, the city would partner with Duke Health and provide listening sessions for up to 40 gunshot wound survivors and/or families of shooting victims.
Dr. Henry Rice, a pediatric surgeon at Duke University Medical Center, said the participants will be selected from either recent gunshot injuries who were cared for at Duke Health or community members with similar recent injuries.
“The intent is to build a long-standing program that supports the needs of gun violence survivors,” Rice said.
During these listening sessions, facilitators will ask the participants a series of questions to look for possible solutions.
These questions include what happened, what was the person thinking and feeling then and now, who was affected and how, and what needs to be done to make things right.
This comes as the number of gunshot wound patients at Duke University Hospital increased by 52 percent over a two-year time period.
According to data from Duke Health, the number of gunshot wound patients jumped from 259 in fiscal year 2019 to 393 in fiscal year 2021.
CBS 17 reached out to some families who have experienced gun violence firsthand to see if they think these listening sessions could help the city find solutions.
Sherry Williams lost her son JaQuienton Sellars to gun violence when he was killed in a shooting in Hillsborough.
“JaQuienton was 21, he was murdered January 7, 2007,” Williams said.
Fifteen years later, she lost her youngest son, Jabari Williams, when he was shot and killed in a shooting on South Street in Durham this past May.
“I just can’t wrap my head around it,” Williams said. “I hate to see another mother go through what I’m going through.”
Williams said she thinks these listening sessions might help grieving families deal with the loss, and help city leaders find solutions to the problem.
“I think it could work,” Williams said. “I would like to see that happen.”
Additionally, Sheryl Smith lost her 18-year-old son Todd Douglas when he was shot and killed in 2005.
“There’s a lot of different reasons that are part of the root cause of the problem now, and everybody’s story is different,” Smith said.
Smith said she thinks these listening sessions could help address the problem.
“If you get families to speak out, about what they’ve been through – the murder of their loved one and how it’s affected them – hopefully, it will make a change for someone,” Smith said. “We would just like to see some progress with this program and with our tax dollars.”
The one-year pilot program will cost $147,000 with Duke Health paying $75,000 and the city paying $72,000.
The funds will go toward paying the facilitators who will be conducting the listening sessions.
Durham City Council is expected to vote on whether to move forward with this program at their next city council meeting on Sept. 6.
If the program is approved, the facilitators will be hired and trained in Oct. and the listening sessions would start as early as Jan. 2023.