Justice workers to learn about ‘Trauma Informed Strategies’ at Thursday event

Not ‘what’s wrong with you?’ but ‘What happened to you?’

About 50 Gorge justice system leaders and staff will attend Thursday’s “Trauma Informed Strategies for the Justice System” session at Best Western Plus Hood River Inn.

The event is intended for individuals working in the justice system, directly with justice involved individuals, and/or participating on the multi-disciplinary team (MDT) in the Columbia River Gorge community. Attendees will come from Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam, and Klickitat counties.

Keynote speaker Lori Heitman, co-founder of the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interviewing model, will share expert knowledge on how to apply trauma informed strategies in working with justice involved individuals. The event begins at 8:30 a.m.; breakout sessions run through the day. Department of Public Safety and Transportation credit is available.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes trauma informed strategies as follows:

“The effects of traumatic events place a heavy burden on individuals, families and communities and create challenges for public institutions and service systems … emerging research has documented the relationships among exposure to traumatic events, impaired neurodevelopmental and immune systems responses and subsequent health risk behaviors resulting in chronic physical or behavioral health disorders.

“It is an almost universal experience of people with mental and substance use disorders. Additionally, it has become evident that addressing trauma requires a multi-pronged, multi-agency public health approach inclusive of public education and awareness, prevention and early identification, and effective trauma-specific assessment and treatment. In order to maximize the impact of these efforts, they need to be provided in an organizational or community context that is trauma-informed, that is, based on the knowledge and understanding of trauma and its far-reaching implications.”

Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey will open the event by sharing a personal breakthrough story on how approaching someone who broke the law from a trauma-informed perspective changed his intervention.

Trauma, and understanding

Lohrey described an incident in which trauma training helped relieve a potentially tragic situation. Deputies had responded to a call of an intoxicated male who was shooting off a gun and was suicidal. Heidi Venture of Venture Consulting Services in Hood River wrote the following account:

“The man was cooperative when they approached him, but they were very concerned about his ability to remain safe and be safe with other people. Because he had driven to the location intoxicated, he was taken into custody for DUII.”

Normally, the story would have ended the next day when he was released back to the community with no additional intervention.

But the sheriff had attended a Trauma Summit sponsored through the MARC grant, and that changed how he responded to the man. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with you,” he asked, “What happened to you?”

At the jail, it was learned that the man was a veteran who has struggled with depression.

The sheriff found that the man did not know he qualified for and could be helped by the resources in the community at Veterans Services or Mid-Columbia Center for Living. Both of these agencies met with him and started services.

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