I have had the privilege of traveling to several states, cities, and counties where I present the need for trauma-informed care within our systems that serve trauma-impacted individuals.
The people I meet are impressive
Every time I present, I am impressed with the quality of individuals that meet with me and their commitment to those individuals in their communities that desperately need help.
There are all kinds of reactions when I discuss…
• the definitions of trauma
• the many types of trauma
• the impact of trauma on the brain
• vicarious trauma for professional staff
• and all the different levels of training that are available
Among those reactions are typically two major concerns.
The first is a question: How can our organizations and systems afford the costs for comprehensive training for our staff? The second concern is whether or not their organization’s and system’s leadership will be willing to change policies, practices and structures to support a trauma-informed system of care.
In essence the two perspectives are inseparable.
It is important to understand why.
When community leaders are committed to providing training and support for their staff who are dealing with trauma-impacted individuals, they will find ways to develop the budget for the right kind of training.
We do wish our healthcare systems would embrace the research like that of the Adverse Child Experiences (ACEs) in funding trauma-informed care. This would benefit systems of care organizations, but that is still in the process of being established.
But quite honestly, organizations that are trauma-informed will have better success with their clients, increase staff retention, and create safe environments for staff and clients in their organizations.
When we encounter a community that needs trauma-informed care it is important for community leaders to be engaged in the initial meetings. Leadership could include commissioners, CEO’s, judges, heads of agencies, non-profit leaders and other community leaders.
I like to spend time talking about a basic understanding of trauma and how it impacts victims, staff and systems in every community.
What is rather compelling is often the same symptoms that trauma victims display are also reflected in staff and in organizations that deal with trauma-impacted individuals. Trauma seems to have a life of its own and is negatively contagious. Trauma creates more trauma.
In order to address the needs of clients, staff and organizations within our trauma-impacted communities, we must provide compelling evidence to leaders that a trauma-informed system is essential to the care of their community.
Leaders also recognize that the training offered needs to permeate that community at various levels and be relevant to the needs of each community.
In brief, trauma-training needs to be available within the unique context of each community.
Often I am asked, what are the most basic requirements to establish trauma-informed communities?
My answer to that is the key leaders in that community must be committed to creating environments that are safe for trauma-impacted individuals and their staff. It is a radical paradigm shift for many systems of care to make these changes.
Without buy-in from community leaders there usually will be no momentum for change.
However, leadership buy-in can result in a changed system that will empower staff and trauma-impacted clients to realize healing and hope for recovery.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside