"The Level I trauma centers are really expensive," said Dr. Garen Wintemute, who works in UC Davis' Level I trauma center in California and is the director of its Violence Prevention Research Program. At such trauma centers, medical staff are on duty around the clock, and an operating room is kept available.
The speed of these centers is key, Wintemute says. "The ambulance service is talking with the hospital as soon as they pick the patient up. That way, there are 15 people in the room waiting for the moment you roll through that door. You'll be in the operating room 10 minutes later. And if someone else comes in, there's another crew waiting. It's very expensive, but minutes matter here. It's what saves lives."
Dr. Marie Crandall is a trauma surgeon who has saved hundreds of gunshot victims at Northwestern University. "As a trauma surgeon here, it's a good portion of what I do every day," Crandall said.
She has been studying the connection between the survivability of gun violence in proximity to trauma centers in Chicago.
"To me, this violence places a tremendous burden on the health care system," she said. "It's crushing us."
Sixty-one regional trauma centers closed from 1988 to 1991 as costs rose and networks developed, according to the University of Chicago position paper. Only eight states provide any significant trauma center financial support. Bills have failed in the Illinois state House in the past to increase these funds.
And Chicago has more than twice the recommended one to two Level I or II trauma centers per million people. Another study it cites suggests that a delay in transportation from the South Side to a trauma center "has no impact" (PDF).
The "lethality rate," though, has gone up on the South Side, according to sociologist Anthony Harris. His groundbreaking 2002 study "Murder and Medicine" (PDF) may have been the first to identify the direct connection between the impact that medical technology and related medical support services have had in suppressing the homicide rate.
"The centers unequivocally make a difference," Harris said. Mocking up the numbers since Michael Reese Hospital closed, he says the lethality rate has gone up 25% for every 100 assaults. "The lethality rate is extremely sensitive to relatively small factors. When you have trauma centers closing all over the place, it is going to have an impact."
Community organizer Morris-Moore says she and her group will continue to protest and try to draw attention to the need for a South Side center. They've been at it for two years already. However, she says she never gets discouraged at the slow progress.
"As a community organizer, my only real weapon is hope," Mooris-Moore said.
As for Williams, who has lost so many including her young cousin, she is working with children with behavioral problems to teach them to understand consequences of violence before it is too late.
"I tell them we recently celebrated my cousin's 16th birthday at one of her favorite restaurants, Chuck E. Cheese, and we had to do it without her," she said. "It's just not right."