Minnesota health care systems declare gun violence a public health crisis

Health systems commit to collectively address growing crisis.

Health care leaders across Minnesota are joining together to express their shared view that gun violence is a public health crisis. Health care systems share a unique perspective on this growing crisis and the impact the lives lost and those forever changed by gun violence has on the health and well-being of our communities.

To address the epidemic of gun violence both locally and nationally, Minnesota’s health care systems have pledged to collaborate and take action on the development of solutions to prevent gun violence and advance important conversations on reforms to protect patients, employees and communities.

The CEOs from Allina Health, CentraCare, Children’s Minnesota, Essentia Health, Fairview Health Services, Gillette Children’s, HealthPartners, Hennepin Healthcare, North Memorial Health and Sanford Health have released the statement below:

As leaders of some of our state’s health care systems, we believe it is time to declare gun violence as a public health crisis and to work to prevent the deaths of innocent people of all ages and backgrounds. We must look no further than the recent shootings on a hospital campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a school in Uvalde, Texas, a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and countless others just this past year to see its devastating impacts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020 more than 19,000 American lives were lost due to homicide involving a gun. That same year, guns became the leading cause of death for children and teenagers. These statistics are appalling and outrage us as health care providers and should outrage us all. Everyone deserves a world where they can feel safe and live their lives without fear of gun violence.

Gun violence and its horrific impacts are preventable. It has reached epidemic levels and represents a significant threat to public health. 

As health care providers, we see the impacts of gun violence firsthand every day. We uniquely understand the devastation of this violence in our hospitals and clinics, and the toll it takes on individuals, families, communities and the care providers who treat the victims. We have an important role to play in creating a safer future for all. 

We will continue to be fierce advocates for the safety of our employees, patients and the communities we serve, inside and outside our hospital and clinic walls.  By formally declaring gun violence as the public health crisis that it is, we will collectively seek the solutions required to save lives and stem the tide of violence.

Lisa Shannon                                                                Kenneth Holmen, MD
President and CEO                                                       President and CEO
Allina Health                                                                 CentraCare

Marc Gorelick, MD                                                       David Herman, MD
President and CEO                                                       CEO
Children’s Minnesota                                                   Essentia Health

James Hereford                                                            Barbara Joers
President and CEO                                                       President and CEO
Fairview Health Services                                             Gillette Children’s

Jennifer DeCubellis                                                      Andrea Walsh
CEO                                                                                  President and CEO
Hennepin Healthcare                                                   HealthPartners

J. Kevin Croston, MD
President and CEO
North Memorial Health

Bill Gassen, CEO, Sanford Health


Grant from The Toy Foundation helps comfort kids in HCMC’s Emergency Department


Since last year, children being seen at HCMC’s Emergency Department in the heart of downtown Minneapolis have been enjoying new toys thanks to a grant from The Toy Foundation, a charitable organization that works with the toy industry to support play programs for children. HCMC was chosen as one of the recipients of a grants totaling more than $215,000 that were distributed to children’s hospitals for innovative play projects designed to help hospitalized children heal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the health and well-being of millions of children resulting in a rise in emergency room visits and hospitalizations for mental, emotional, and behavioral health conditions. To help children’s hospitals, especially those serving disadvantaged communities, address this crisis through the therapeutic power of play, The Toy Foundation and Children’s Hospital Association partnered to create “Grants for Play Projects.”

“It’s unbelievable how distraction elements can make a difference in the lives of children coming to the emergency department for care,” explains Child Life Program Coordinator Alyson Weiss.  “We are so grateful for this generous gift that just keeps on giving.”

Hennepin Healthcare is a nationally recognized system of care that includes HCMC, a Level I Adult Trauma Center and Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center with the largest emergency department in Minnesota, where 5,000 to 8,000 children are cared for every year. This donation also impacts the additional children of adult patients or siblings of pediatric patients who find themselves in HCMC’s waiting rooms or exam rooms.

The toys purchased with the $25,00 grant from The Toy Foundation helped to make the environment in the pediatric area of the emergency department more friendly and welcoming. Wall game units, bubble tubes, and toys and elements to keep a toy cart sorted by age stocked were some of the items purchased with the grant.

“Whether kids are coming in with a broken arm or are feeling crummy, these toys help them think about something else while they are being assessed and treated,” said Weiss. “Over the past year, we’ve also seen more kids having mental health issues along with whatever else they are struggling with, so these toys can create conversation pieces and make a connection and a difference for patients, providers, and families.”

HCMC is a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center and public teaching hospital located in downtown Minneapolis offering a full spectrum of inpatient and outpatient pediatric care.