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A team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina recently won an $18 million federal grant to help victims of mass violence. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

When a gunman opened fire on country music concertgoers in Las Vegas last month, the city's emergency rooms and trauma centers were prepared to handle the tidal wave of gunshot wound victims.

Not because these hospitals had ever faced such a large-scale emergency before, but because most medical centers routinely train staff to prepare for similar scenarios: mass shootings, plane crashes, bombings. 

"The reality is our world is changing," said Jeff Straub, the emergency manager for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. "We have to be mobile and agile enough to change with the times."

It was no different in Las Vegas. Patients were triaged, treated and, eventually, sent home or to rehab.

But what happens to these survivors when the immediate emergency passes? Communities, it seems, aren't always so well prepared to meet their long-term needs. 

That's a problem that experts at the Medical University of South Carolina want to solve. MUSC's National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center recently won an $18 million federal grant through the Department of Justice to establish the first Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center. It is, by far, the largest grant the center has received in its 40-year history. 

"The problem is mass violence incidents seem to be occurring more frequently," said Dean Kilpatrick, director of the National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center at MUSC. 

Kilpatrick explained that the new center will assist states and local jurisdictions as they respond to large-scale violence. Experts at the center will analyze past events to identify best practices and figure out things that haven't worked so well to inform emergency preparedness in the future. The center will also offer direct services to victims and first responders, drawing from their own interactions with victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. 

The new project will be built on the premise that mass shootings in America won't stop anytime soon.

"We seem to be incapable of enacting or enforcing responsible gun control," Kilpatrick said. "I believe if you look at the past and look at the tempo with which these have happened, it’s hard to argue they won’t happen in the future."

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Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.