Preventing gun violence in Oakland County: ­Beaumont president, medical professionals share insights

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Taking part in the Aug. 1 presentation on the public health issues of gun violence in Michigan were (left to right) Michelle Tukel, Mike Rebock, Oakland County Commissioner Bill Dwyer, Ted Ruza, Beaumont Hospital Farmington Hills President Constance O’Malley, and Sanford Vieder.

– Photo by John Meiu
 

On Aug. 1, President of Beaumont Hospital Farmington Hills Constance O'Malley, along with a small group of physicians and a social worker, appeared before the Oakland County Board of Commissioners' Public Service Committee. They provided information related to gun violence from the perspective of medical professionals with first-hand experience treating victims and at-risk patients.

The discussion focused heavily on the issue of mental health as it relates to gun violence, and the importance of effective education and intervention strategies in preventing tragedies. Panel members stressed that training and encouraging medical staff to ask the right questions is absolutely critical in terms of evaluating and addressing a person's risk for suicide or their potential to commit violence.

They also pointed out that people with mental illnesses are not necessarily more likely to be perpetrators of violence. Therefore, raising awareness about this common misperception and other stigma around mental illness, as well as providing more funding for treatment, is extremely important.

When asked by committee members for feedback regarding how best to combat gun violence at the local level, O'Malley and the other panel members recommended focusing efforts at home and in schools. They discussed the importance of educating and engaging family members of at-risk patients and spoke on the benefits of teaching comprehensive conflict resolution strategies at school.

The discussion also touched on the effectiveness of securely storing firearms in preventing suicides and other gun-related injuries and deaths. O'Malley expressed her support of the Board of Commissioners' Lock-It-Up-Oakland program, an initiative focused on promoting safe storage practices and making free gun locks available to the public. While it is apparent that there is no quick or easy solution to the nationwide gun violence epidemic, the committee hearing aimed to bring the important perspective of the medical community to the table. Inviting Beaumont representatives to participate reflects their position that incorporating expertise from, and collaborating with, medical providers, law enforcement, and other important partners is essential to effectively combatting this serious public health issue.

"There was a great exchange of information regarding the nature of gun violence and what we are seeing at the hospitals during the meeting today," O'Malley. "I hope the insight and experience we shared with the committee will prove helpful as they move forward with their work. It is refreshing to be invited to the table and to have the opportunity to participate in efforts to come up with more effective and innovative solutions to the complex problem of gun violence."

Commissioners in attendance expressed their sincere appreciation of the panel's participation. Commissioner Janet Jackson, minority vice chair of the Public Services Committee, said "The perspectives and expertise of the medical panel helped to connect the dots regarding different incidents, response and intervention, ensuring the conversation was not heavily restricted to a singular view concerning this complicated issue."

"This hearing was part of our ongoing effort to better understand the complex issue of gun violence in order to come up with more effective strategies to reduce it and the negative impact it has on our communities," stated Commissioner Bill Dwyer, chairman of the Public Services Committee. "We are so grateful that President O'Malley and her team participated in our meeting and shared such valuable insights with the Committee. We look forward to continuing to work with them to better combat gun violence in Oakland County."

The six member bi-partisan Public Services Committee is tasked with informing the Board of Commissioners on all health matters impacting the public welfare of the county and its citizens. Pursuant to Miscellaneous Resolution #13017, the committee is also charged with examining issues germane to gun violence in Oakland County. In addition to committee Chairman Dywer (R), the committee consists of Boarb Vice Chair Michael J. Spisz (R), committee Minority Vice Chair Jackson (D), and Commissioners Tom J. Berman (R), Doug Tietz (R), and Gary R. McGillivray (D). Commissioner Marcia Gershenson (D), who is not on the Public Services Committee but serves on the Gun Violence Study Group, was also in attendance at the hearing.

A video recording of the Aug. 1 Public Services Committee meeting, including coverage of the panel discussion, is available at www.oakgov.com/boc under the "Watch the Board" section of the home page. For more information on the gun violence prevention efforts of the Public Services Committee, contact Commissioner Dwyer at 248-417-7500.

For additional information about the Board of Commissioner's Lock It Up Oakland program, visit www.lockitupoakland.com.

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