Developmental Centers Embrace Trauma Informed Care

Trauma Informed Care is an organizational structure and treatment approach that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma on individuals. This holistic approach to serving people within Ohio’s developmental disabilities system is being embraced statewide, in partnership with Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), and in line with the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the state’s Office of Health Transformation initiatives.

With an emphasis on person-centered services and positive interventions, Trauma Informed Care focuses on the importance of physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both service participants and providers, and helps survivors of traumatic experiences rebuild a sense of control and empowerment. Training for DODD staff is being conducted around the state, including at each Developmental Center, and many other agencies throughout the state’s human services system are building Trauma Informed Care into their training plans, as well. This approach offers new tools and techniques to help people feel more prepared and empowered for changes and transitions.

At Mount Vernon Developmental Center (MVDC) last week, training leader Raul Almazar, R.N., a nationally-recognized expert on Trauma Informed Care, commented at the outset of training:

Everyone walks around with trauma in their history. Every one of us!  So, of course the people you serve do, too. They have things in their experience that you cannot imagine or know about.  Understanding this, and asking the right questions, can help us to transform the human services system – not just at DODD – but at whatever agency a person may go to for help and guidance.”

Almazar added, “When people come to your facility, do you ask them in a caring way, “What has happened to you? What are your experiences?  What makes you upset?  What makes you feel good?  For too long, people needing various services have not been asked these questions. They may have been asked something that could be perceived as, “What’s wrong with you?  Why are you like this?”  He noted several examples of trauma and resulting behaviors people use as coping mechanisms. They include not communicating due to fear, and acting out due to anticipating a specific bad experience. Learn more in this presentation by Almazar on Trauma Informed Care.

Participants from the first of three Trauma-Informed Care training sessions at MVDC gathered around the Christmas tree in the Administration Building’s Great Room. Superintendent Dana Mattison noted that it was important for everyone at every level of staffing to be involved in the training. She said, “Everyone – from our maintenance workers, to our front desk, to our direct care staff – everyone needs to learn about this, because it is a system-wide cultural shift that will help us all to better understand and work with each other, and with the people we serve.”

Participants from the first of three Trauma-Informed Care training sessions at MVDC gathered around the Christmas tree in the Administration Building’s Great Room. Superintendent Dana Mattison noted that it was important for everyone at every level of staffing to be involved in the training. She said, “Everyone – from our maintenance workers, to our front desk, to our direct care staff – everyone needs to learn about this, because it is a system-wide cultural shift that will help us all to better understand and work with each other, and with the people we serve.”

Mattison continued, “We all know our system is in transition, and we have been in the process of downsizing for some time now. Training such as this can help our staff and residents find ways to feel more comfort and control as they look to integrate more fully into the larger community.”

Summing up the training, Mattison noted, “One of our top priorities is to have a transition plan for staff when someone that they have cared for — often for many years — moves out of the DC and into the community. It is so important to have that sense of continuity for the people we serve, as well as for staff. We feel strongly that the practice of Trauma Informed Care will help us in these efforts.”

DODD Senior Policy Advisor and lead for the Trauma Informed Care initiative Pam Berry explained that the trainings are part of a larger framework for system-wide change that will continue throughout the coming months. She noted, “We are very fortunate to have Raul and his partners at our Developmental Centers, as they bring such strong clinical expertise as well as Inspirational stories of transformation and healing. Understanding the impact of trauma, and developing trauma-sensitive approaches within our DCs is critical as we search for ways to better support people with complex needs.”

More information at www.samhsa.gov/

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