Assessing Youth for Gang Involvement
Unfortunately, many youth in our community - and many of your patients - may be gang involved. Gang involvement poses serious physical and mental health risks, including engaging in criminal behavior and violence.
Recognizing and intervening before a youth experiences serious sequalae can make the difference, not only acutely but for an adolescent’s entire life. Screening kids for violence and gang involvement at health maintenance visits is crucial.
Key questions include:
How many fights they have been in recently
If they have friends who are gang involved
If they themselves are gang involved
Clues on physical exam include:
Tattoos representing gangs, (including 3 dots in a triangle or "La Vida Loca" (my crazy life). If you see tattoos, definitely ask kids to explain - it can be quite revealing.
Office-based counseling regarding gang involvement and overall violent behavior can change a youth’s approach to these issues. We typically use stages-of-change and motivational interviewing to engage the teen.
There are also resources in the community to which patients involved in gangs can be referred. GRASP, the Gang Rescue and Support Project, is a program that helps youth understand the choices they have made and desist from gang life. The program can be reached at (303) 777-3117.
Additionally, patients can be referred to the adolescent medicine clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado for further assessment and counseling. Please call (720) 777-6131 for more information.