A More Trauma-Informed Delaware
Leslie A. Brower
President, Trauma Matters Board of Directors
It seems trauma has surrounded us in the past year. No one needs to hear a list to recall the number and range of traumatic events that have unfolded this past year. This much is nothing new. For centuries, the suffering caused by trauma has been the focus of attention in the areas of domestic violence, child welfare, sexual assault, the military, racial hatred, and so on. What is new is public awareness of the concept of trauma—as differentiated from distress, grief, depression or anxiety not associated with a traumatic experience. This newfound awareness is reflected in the frequent use of the terminology of trauma in casual conversation and media reporting.
This awareness is the product of contributions from many sources. It is a gift from individuals who have suffered trauma and shared the experience with the world. It is a gift from science, by researchers unveiling the impact of trauma and toxic stress on the brain and body, including the landmark ACE Study, brain imaging and child development specialists, and child and family therapists. It is a gift from communities asking that policymakers focus not only on the traumatic experience but also on the attributes of resilience and mutual support that foster healing. And it is a gift from individuals and communities demanding accountability and social justice in the face of violence, discrimination, and hatred.
In recognition of the prevalence and impact of trauma in Delaware, in 2018 Governor John Carney issued Executive Order #24. The E.O. committed to Delaware becoming a trauma-informed state and instructed state agencies to engage in the process to become trauma-informed: training staff, evaluating processes and programs and addressing the prevalence and impact of trauma on their service population(s.). The E.O. also created Trauma Awareness Month in May, which will be recognized for the third time this year. It also created the Compassionate Champion Awards that recognize outstanding individuals and organizations working toward a culture that is trauma-informed—look for awards to be announced in early June. First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney linked her First Chance Initiative to TMD’s work and provided seed money to establish the website (originally called Trauma-Informed Delaware.)
Building on the momentum of the Executive Order and the First Chance Initiative, stakeholders convened during 2018-2019 to build a “Blueprint” supporting this vision of a trauma-informed state. The Blueprint recognized that a ‘backbone’ organization was needed to provide structure and expertise as individuals and organizations moved along a continuum from ‘trauma aware’ to ‘trauma-informed.’ Trauma Matters Delaware (TMD) was designated to fulfill this function and work began to shore up its legal status by applying for 501c3 non-profit status. TMD has moved forward with establishing a website, supporting Trauma Awareness Month and the Compassionate Champion Awards, and building out a trauma-informed organizational ‘coaching’ program. In recognizing the value of this work Highmark Delaware awarded TMD a Blueprints for the Community grant to facilitate such coaching with Beebe Healthcare.
Trauma Matters Delaware’s vision is a state where all people can feel safe, grow beyond adversity and thrive. As we work toward that vision we invite dialogue and partnership across the spectrum of service sectors, geographic locations, populations, and communities. We look forward to continuing to learn from each other and to broadening and accelerating the scope of our collaborations.