When a group of community organizations in Baltimore came together in 2015, they already knew trauma figured large in many lives. There was violence in the community, in schools, and in community members’ homes. Police brutality occurred. Many suffered the loss of loved ones to incarceration or death. There were house fires and homelessness. Much of the dysfunction was systemic and rooted in racism, according to a report on a collaborative effort to restructure city organizations and agencies. The goal was to build community resilience.
In 17 months of development — trying out, modifying and putting plans into action — the Baltimore Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC) brought together nine different teams, trained and educated 928 people about trauma and resilience, screened 638 people for trauma, referred 321 people for mental health care, expanded connections into 50 new collaborations, created 27 “trauma-free” zones, relied on a “it’s not for us if it’s not by us” concept of families and community members defining what needed to change and how, and each developed their own way to measure growing resilience. And now the model is being put into place in Oakland, California.
The nine Baltimore-based teams were: Advanced Therapeutic Connections; Bon Secours Behavioral Health; Communities United; ED Pride Program at Baltimore City Schools;The Family Tree; House of Ruth, Maryland; KidzStuff Childcare Center/Sage Wellness Group; New Lens; and Pressley Ridge. The teams are a mix of grassroots community and youth social justice organizations; organizations that provide mental health, child abuse prevention, and child care services; as well as agencies that serve foster youth and families who have experienced domestic violence.
For the Oakland participants, the BSC model was a good fit, says Francesca Osuna, the trauma-informed implementation and evaluation coordinator for the East Bay Agency for Children. “We thought it was a good opportunity to bring together agencies that don’t usually work directly together and have them share and learn with each other,” says Osuna, who is coordinating the program planning in the Oakland BSC. “It’s a good opportunity for them to share their wisdom.”
How did it work in Baltimore? Rochell Barksdale can see the fruits of that training first hand. The mother of two, who lives in Baltimore, took what she learned from the collaborative, and started a trauma-support group in 2016 in the public housing complex where she lives. And it’s been growing ever since.
“It started in my home, and when my home got too small, we moved to a church,” says Barksdale, who is a member of the grassroots group Communities United, one of the BSC teams. The trauma-support group, which meets monthly, now gathers at a center at her son’s elementary school. As many as 16 people attend the meetings.