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Investments in New Hanover County’s Resiliency Paying Off During Time of Pandemic


Cliff Barnett, Wilmington city council member; pastor at Warner Temple AME Zion, and chair of the Family Faith and Community committee for the New Hanover Resiliency Task Force (RTF), shares experience in using sign language during a regularly scheduled RTF meeting. (Other photos are from recent monthly RTF meetings).

With training, community’s front lines are proving resilient to and aware of trauma’s impact

WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA   April 7, 2020 Two years ago, the Resiliency Task Force of New Hanover County (RTF) began organizing around addressing childhood trauma and toxic stress, creating a blueprint for how New Hanover County could become a more resilient, compassionate community.  A global pandemic was nowhere on the horizon. 

However, community members on our front lines across systems are today using the training they have received from the RTF in recent months that increased their resiliency skills and trauma awareness to better care for themselves and serve our local community.Screen Shot 2020-04-09 at 10.32.51 AM

Education by the RTF in these skills continues throughout New Hanover County today, even though the delivery of these services has changed to a virtual one. 

RTF is made up of over 100 organizations and close to 700 individuals, collaborating closely to move towards creating trauma-informed systems (school, healthcare, government, early childhood, faith communities, families, first responders and justice), that are more aware of the prevalence of trauma, better able to recognize signs of trauma, respond in trauma-sensitive ways, and avoid re-traumatization.

Investments have been made to teach how to first recognize one’s own biological responses to stress and then skills to bring one back into their “Resilient Zone.”  This zone is where individuals can function as their best self despite the stress and trauma responses that their nervous system exhibits.  Over 1,000 individuals have received a training in the Community Resiliency Model (CRM) and an additional 127 individuals in the Reconnect for Resiliency (R4R) Model.  In addition, over 2,000 individuals have attended a screening of the documentary Resiliency, which introduces viewers to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study and the lifelong health impacts ACEs may have.

 Many of the individuals who received RTF trainings are now on the front lines of this pandemic.

RTF has led and supported trainings for individuals who work at organizations such as the New Hanover Regional Medical Center, NHC Department of Social Services, 911 Call Centers, The Emergency Operations Center, New Hanover Disaster Coalition, Good Shepherd Center, Domestic Violence Shelter, New Hanover County Schools, NHC Library, and dozens of non-profits. 

 With the arrival of COVID19, the community is seeing some benefits of these investments.

 Our frontline workers have new skills to bring their own nervous systems back on-line to better care for the people they serve. Like the airplane oxygen mask analogy, one can only help others when their own needs are met.

  • Organizations have improved their abilities to work collaboratively across systems, by breaking down silos and communicating more honestly and frequently.
  • Our frontline workers have new skills to provide better peer support, and a heightened awareness of signs of trauma and need for support when workers are experiencing secondary or vicarious trauma.

 As Matt Langley, Telecommunications Trainer with the New Hanover County 911 Call Center said, “9-1-1 personnel are just as dedicated today as they have ever been. Because of efforts made by the RTF and New Hanover County’s continued efforts at Peer Support and Crisis Management, we hope that we will build on our own resilience and can be resilient for others in this time of great need and worry. “

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Tom Robinson, Assistant Chief of Support Services with the Wilmington Fire Department also commented, saying, “When working with stressors and developing techniques to create resiliency you can never have too many tools in your toolbox. Everyone responds to life in different ways and R4R has given us another way to reduce anxiety during these stressful times. We have been given a number of additional resources and reminders from the Resiliency Task Force that have been sent to all our personnel to aid them in the manner most appropriate for each of them.” 

The RTF has adjusted and enhanced its activities and offerings in the "new normal' by providing training online in shorter, more digestible lengths.

  • Online training and refresher courses in CRM (Community Resiliency Model) are now available to those who have already completed the training, and mini courses are scheduled to provide virtual training to those with no experience with CRM.
  • A team of communities (and systems) continues to meet virtually on a monthly basis to provide ongoing support to one another.
  • Listening Circles for those trained in the R4R Model are offered regularly by Resources for Resilience.

 The RTF membership is using its collective voice to disseminate accurate information (inconsistent and inaccurate information causes stress) and advocate for legislation to meet basic needs to reduce the stress of the general population.

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While much has been accomplished, the work of the Task Force is still in its infancy, and much work remains. However, the connections that have been made and strengthened over the past two years are providing strength and resilience to many in our community during this time. We know that our frontline workers and the community at large are currently experiencing significant stress, and our abilities to buffer this stress are more important than ever.   The consequences of this crisis will be felt for years to come, and the RTF will be working together to address those needs.

 About the Resiliency Task Force:

 RTF’s vision is to build a resilient and compassionate community together.  Through a network of committed partners, our goal is to transform and align all sectors of our community creating a resiliency-informed, family-focused system that improves early childhood, academic, health, and social outcomes for everyone.  Addressing ACES, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, is a rising trend in public health, as more is becoming known about how childhood traumas, both at the individual and societal levels, have a devastating impact on health outcomes later in life, to include greater instances of heart disease, cancer, and COPD, and a multitude of mental health issues. Schools, communities and practitioners in various locations are working to teach and reinforce resiliency as well as combat the factors that lead to these traumatic events.




Images (3)
  • Screen Shot 2020-04-09 at 10.33.50 AM: Elizabeth Bynum of the North Carolina Partnership for Children  (at table) sits among students from the UNCW School of Nursing at an RTF meeting.
  • Screen Shot 2020-04-09 at 10.33.21 AM: Dr. Anka Roberto and  Dr. Josalin Hunter-Jones both of the of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington  (UNCW) College of Health and Human Services, report on their project to bring the Life is Good Playmakers programs to Wilmington.
  • Screen Shot 2020-04-09 at 10.32.51 AM: Scott Whistant, community engagement director at New Hanover Regional Medical Center and RTF board chair distributes materials to RTF meeting attendees.

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