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"Moving From Trauma Understanding to Trauma Responsive" - SAMHSA Forum

Johnson City to co-host forum on community-wide systems of care

On Sept. 5, the City of Johnson City will co-host a forum entitled Moving from Understanding to Implementing Trauma-Responsive Services in conjunction with the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). The forum will address SAMHSA recommendations for communities to treat trauma as a component of effective behavioral health service delivery.

Statistics recently released from the Tennessee Department of Health offer a grim reminder that 1,631 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses in 2016, which is the highest annual number of such deaths ever recorded in state history. This is an increase from the 1,451 overdose deaths recorded among Tennessee residents in 2015.

“Each of these numbers represents a person, with family and friends who are now facing the loss of someone dear to them to a cause that is preventable,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner. 

Facing this drug addiction challenge, many professionals in Johnson City are now becoming aware of the link between trauma as a significant risk factor for addiction and other life disparities. 

From 1995-1997, the American health maintenance organization Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted landmark research known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study). The study demonstrated an association of adverse childhood experiences – or childhood trauma – with health and social problems across the lifespan. Since 2015, the Johnson City Police Department’s unique Community Crime Prevention Program and East Tennessee State University’s Psychology Department have educated more than 2,800 area professionals on this important topic while forming a trauma-informed system of care that now includes 29 affiliated organizations. 

One of those systems of care affiliates is Niswonger Children’s Hospital. Hospital Chief Executive Officer Lisa Carter recognizes the importance of having staff educated in trauma-informed care:  “We have noticed an increase over the past couple of years in the numbers of families and children who come into our facility with issues and social dynamics that reach far beyond their acute illness and reason for admission. Becoming a trauma-informed facility will help all of our team members become mindful of these struggles, better recognize needs, and create a positive impact in their lives. Our goal is to do more than meet the physical needs of our patients. We want to improve their physical and mental health as we attempt to break the cycle of toxic stress.”

This approach to identifying trauma and therefore being able to better serve those who have endured it was brought to the forefront of health services in 2014, when the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a paper titled Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. It recommended that communities address trauma by viewing it as an important component of effective behavioral health service delivery. Additionally, it was SAMHSA’s guidance that communities should address trauma through a multi-agency public health approach inclusive of public education and awareness, prevention and early identification, and effective trauma-specific assessment and treatment. 

“Though many communities across the nation are beginning to implement some of these SAMHSA recommendations, Johnson City (Tennessee) clearly stands out as a leader in embracing this model,” according to Dr. Joan Gillece, director of SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma Informed Care.

The forum will feature presentations from several distinguished representatives of state, regional, and local agencies. Event sponsors include Camelot, Insight Alliance, System of Care Across Tennessee, the East Tennessee State University Psychology Department, and the Johnson City Police Department.

The free forum will take place from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Hotel, 1216 W. State of Franklin Road and will include lunch. Program details and registration are available 

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