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How Trauma-Informed Care is Helping the Pasadena Community

Huntington Hospital is partnering with its Pasadena neighbors—Young & Healthy and the Pasadena Unified School District—to spearhead Trauma-Informed Care, a program designed to address the impact trauma (both physical and emotional) has on the community’s well-being and healthcare in general.

Trauma-Informed Care is an approach that involves understanding, recognizing and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. It emphasizes physical, psychological and emotional safety for both patients and providers, and helps survivors rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.

Funded by the UniHealth Foundation through a multi-year grant, the Pasadena program is in its infancy, but early results are most promising. And all entities are committed to making it a success.

“This initiative seeks to reduce the prevalence of trauma in our community,” said Lori J. Morgan, MD, Huntington Hospital CEO. “Emotional trauma is increasingly recognized as a healthcare epidemic. Nearly 20% of all Americans have suffered levels of trauma that place them at higher risk for a large array of health problems ranging from severe obesity to heart disease to depression to suicide. A trauma-informed approach involves understanding how traumatic experiences and stress impact our patients, which enables us to respond appropriately and supportively.”

To date, Huntington has trained 3,400 employees and 200 physicians in all aspects of Trauma-Informed Care. It has become mandatory training for staff and part of orientation for all new hires. According to Cathi Chadwell, Executive Director of Philanthropy at Huntington Hospital, Trauma-Informed training began with the emergency room staff and has since become part of the workplace fabric. “This program is transforming the way we deliver heartfelt, compassionate care to our patients and their families,” Chadwell added.

The hospital’s medical staff, as well as community physicians, receive information about emotional trauma’s impacts on physical health, and how to strengthen care for patients who have experienced trauma.

“This program is a tool for the hospital’s staff to understand a patient’s needs—particularly difficult and upset ones,” said Debora Jackson, the hospital’s Patient Relations and Customer Service Manager. “The staff training is impactful. We now have a better understanding of why some patients act the way they do and can treat them more appropriately.”

The school district plays a vital role in the success of Trauma-Informed Care. According to Ann Rector, Director of Health Programs with PUSD, all teachers and staff are being trained through a program entitled SCHOOL (Smiling Calm Hearts Open Our Learning) Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Training. She said the students’ world is changing rapidly due to social media postings that can be traumatic. In all, 27 schools have had training sessions for more than 600 teachers and support staff including nurses and psychologists.

“Bringing Trauma-Informed Care to the schools has helped us forge new pathways,” said Rector. “Many of our students come to school with challenges ranging from poverty to immigration issues. That’s a challenge for the teachers—helping students who have encountered trauma for most of their lives. Teachers need to provide positivity as opposed to punishment.”

Mary Donnelly-Crocker, Executive Director of Young & Healthy, a Pasadena non-profit agency that provides care for underserved children, agreed. She said that for many students acts of defiance are actually acts of self-preservation due to the traumas they have encountered. She also believes early childhood stress is an indicator of future outcomes and sees the schools as a key component in the program’s success.

“Aside from the home, children spend most of their time with their teachers,” Donnelly-Crocker said. “We need to shift the attitudes of teachers, and the school district is doing a terrific job of that. We need to forge new methodologies through the schools and pay attention to trouble signs. We need to lose the thought of what’s wrong with this child, and replace it with happened to them in their lives to cause them to act this way.”

Through their efforts in implementing Trauma-Informed Care, the three organizations are working closely together to make the Pasadena community stronger and emotionally healthier.

For additional information about Communities Lifting Communities, contact Karen Ochoa, CLC Project Manager, at (213) 538-0765 or kochoa@hasc.org.

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