As we finalize our reports of year 1 work, we look to share details of the activities, and how this fits into the community-informed strategic plan from earlier this year (March 2017). Much of this past year was focused on building awareness about trauma-informed work for resiliency, and ensuring there are positive out-of-school activities available for youth throughout the community. We were able to move resources to local groups leading activities in sports, music, opera, and community growth- which are known (with supporting science) to promote wellbeing through social-emotional capacity (self esteem, self-confidence, perseverance) and physical health too- and we view this as a proud next step in defining Flint as a leader in community resiliency.
As we get moving in year 2, we want to ensure there are opportunities for community members to seek, receive, and benefit from our focus on trauma-informed approaches to resiliency. We will make sure there are at least 2 regular trainings available from the ReCAST team. The first info-training focuses on the definitions of trauma, and what it means in a community setting- including how community groups, parents, children, and residents are able to address it and work along side clinical providers. The second info-training shares the Community Resiliency Model- a science-backed approach to control our stress response- but designed by an extremely experienced clinical behavioral health team with more than 30 years experience working with communities (world-wide) managing trauma. This trauma-informed model deliberately seeks to meet the needs of communities (alongside clinical care), and includes skills that anyone can do. We expect these practices (used community-wide) change the trends away from re-traumatizing our community and toward a collective effort to support community change using intentional, non-traumatizing, collaborative strategies.
The Fall 2017 round of ReCAST supported initiatives has just been announced, and there will be at least 15 ongoing local programs that will infuse trauma-informed practices into their organizational structure, daily functions, and regular practices with the communities they service. The best part about these partners is that they have committed leadership teams that are invested in the future of Flint.
Much of the trauma-informed work that's commonly addressed is in the clinical context; with this round of support, we are supporting our primary effort of building a trauma-informed community by supporting community-based teams to get trauma-informed training, and collaborate/strategize with the ReCAST team and with each other to share these practices in community settings (to complement the ongoing clinical efforts).
As a collective, the initiatives address multiple community spaces. One partner looks to share trauma knowledge within the faith community; another plans to infuse trauma-informed language and practice into community development. As mindfulness practice continues to become the norm, yet another partner will support the trauma-informed awareness in their network of practitioners. Other teams support wellness through evidence-based family (parents and children) growth oriented programming, supporting parenting activities, and mentoring programs, including staff training about trauma-informed approaches. We're also continuing support of arts/music programs, academic support/tutoring, and after-school youth programming (all with trauma-informed teams on staff).
Coming soon- spotlights on the fantastic work of the these teams, and ways for more (of your) involvement!
Even though we've tried to put it in multiple places, details about the how and why we put high value on this work isn't always clear, and we're looking for the strengths in Flint (in different ways). Hopefully the info below more clearly connects the contextual dots.
The Flint Water Crisis is a community-wide traumatic event, and since the onset, has triggered direct and vicarious traumatic responses for Flint community members and their families. There are multiple events and considerations bounded within the crisis: media attention, suspicion and distrust of local leaders, mistrust in government, placement and removal of water resources, new economic problems, emotional stress for families, legionella outbreak worries, physical health (e.g. skin) concerns, older adult & immunocompromised health worries and resource needs, and cognitive/behavioral concerns for small children. This package of problems was compounded by pre-existing conditions in Flint; this included limited employment opportunities, longstanding issues with violence and poverty, school quality concerns, limited community-wide trust, and strained competitive rather than collaborative community relationships. Flint has been chronically stressed for years, and the Flint Water Crisis has propelled the resilient spirit of Flint to extend beyond meeting survival needs, and toward new sustainable practices and strategies that allow and encourage the Flint community to thrive and redefine success and wellbeing for future generations.
The Flint Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma (ReCAST) program is one strategy we are using to support our community in response to this community-wide traumatic event, and the resulting direct and secondary traumatic experiences as well. Flint-ReCAST is a SAMHSA funded initiative through the City of Flint in partnership with Michigan State University. Our efforts are informed by the clinical and community expertise of our team, along with my research on the health vulnerabilities associated with various chronic stressors, defined within a population health/health equity framework. We use a population health equity framework to promote trauma-informed evidence-based approaches to improve public health, well-being, and resiliency in Flint. Our deliberate use of traditional clinical-focused trauma informed practices with community health for the purpose of supporting well-being of our youth, adults, families, and community demonstrates the importance of integrating social work, clinical, and population health principles to improve our communities.
This work is focused on resilience. Defined in the view of the agency that funded the work. And the project has this in it's name (another comment about the word "project" will come on another day). The question we've gotten time and again: what is resilience? And the follow up comment about the word: I'm not sure I like the word use at all.
So I thought I'd put my two cents out about what it might mean.
Resilience is often talked about as the ability to bounce back, or to continue to move through daily life in the midst of adversity; this kind of description is in general conversation, in the general view that gets put together when talking about what to do after something big (and bad) happens. One of the issues that comes with using this definition though, is that it's hard to account for the things that were hard or wrong or less than positive in the first place, so what are we bouncing back to?
Our ReCAST resilience definition is a little more clear and intentional. And to distinguish, I'll point to some of the definitions used by the people and scientists who have studied resilience for children and adults of all ages. Some talk about states of resilience (US State Department), acknowledging that it is a process to adapt to current circumstances, and in other spaces resilience processes refer to the actions people take on, using their existing skills/abilities, to make sure they get the resources (financial and otherwise) to take care of themselves. Other definitions refer to resilience as a trait (Block & Block, 1980) evidenced by various psychological features, like optimism or emotional flexibility (Waugh, Thompson, and Gotlib, 2011). There's also work that discusses what should be expected after major negative events- that resilience should be the expectation rather than illness (Bonanno, 2004). With these connected but varied definitions, we value them as a starting place, but know that we have to have a common language to support the community moving forward, and that the common definition we work from needs to actually be the definition developed in this community. And that's just what we spent the last year making sure we understand, and what we'll be looking to do as we keep moving this work forward in the future.
First of all, THANKS to everybody who has been working with the ReCAST effort to find ways to support our community. We have spent a lot of time this past year getting to what you want, how community members want to see events and activities happening, and learning about the best ways to use these resources to help Flint keep moving forward.
Where is ReCAST starting, and what is ReCAST doing?
As we have listened to community input, through open sessions, listening at community forums, and outright asking, the Flint ReCAST is supporting resilience by supporting the capacity of our local organizations, leaders, decision makers, youth, families, education teams, and crisis responders to use trauma-informed approaches in their daily lives- both for themselves and when working with (each) other(s). In practice, this means we want to build the foundation for a trauma-informed, and resiliency-informed, community through lots of pathways...As you can imagine, this is not a small task- our marching orders are large, clear, and importantly, doable when we work together.
We also know that there are obvious issues that need to be fixed in Flint...we hear you. We want you to know that there is progress: (1) A clean, safe, and affordable water source is required, and much is being done in the city to make this a reality. (2) Economic security is a major need, and following the local media, we see opportunities coming back to Flint. (3) Flint is growing, and community members want to make sure there continues to be space, resources, and opportunities for everyone who calls Flint home.
We expect that the Flint ReCAST equips our local leaders and decision makers with trauma-informed skills to support decision making that benefits the community broadly, and attends to the unintended consequences that implicitly puts under-resourced community members in even worse situations. We look to you, as members of the community, to identify the viable solutions you want to develop and support, while we provide the tools and capacity you need to create those solutions. Finally, we look to our past generations and our future generations to go forward from here- so we bring community conversation, strategies to boost our decision making capacity, and opportui
What has ReCAST been doing lately? We haven't heard anything...
Back in May 2017, we shared an overview of the Flint ReCAST at the Genesee County Health Department annual conference (we'll make sure you can get them here on the site).
Over the summer of 2017, ReCAST partnered with the Flint YMCA, El Ballet Folklorico Estudiantil, WOW Outreach, Community Based Organization Partners, CAUTION, Berston Field House, Priority Children, and the Trauma Resource Institute to bring programs, activities, information, and resources to Flint residents, families, and community members. These groups have long been active in Flint to make sure kids have safe and supportive spaces to build character assets that help them move forward- like confidence, motivation, self-esteem, and talents (in music, sports, art, and whatever they put their minds to!).
The other big initiative we jump-started in June 2017 was to bring the Community Resiliency Model, or CRM, to the Flint community by working with the Trauma Resource Institute, a non-profit organization that has worked for the last several years to find strategies that we can use in community contexts to support our efforts to put our stressors in their place- and help us make the best decisions to move ourselves (and Flint) forward. CRM is a set of 6 key trauma-informed practical skills, based on our physical body reactions to stressful situations, that help us refocus our attention to our goals in the moment. We were able to get 10 local people trained to share the skills, and look forward to sharing this tool with you- let us know if you're interested!
In August 2017, we launched the small project request for applications, asking for local groups to tell us how to promote trauma-informed approaches and practices throughout the community. We did this because we know that there are many groups in Flint that already know how they help Flint best, through their organizations, their work, and their passions. This first round yielded 17 applications (nearly all will be funded!), and we look forward to working closely with the groups that submitted proposals!
What Benefit Will These Funded Proposals Bring To You, You Ask?
Well, we know these groups do what they do well, and we will work with these groups to build their capacity at trauma-informed local leaders, get them connected with each other, and share with you the great work, programs, and resources they bring to you, your families, and the people you serve.
What's Coming Next?
Well, we are building a calendar of events to tell you about ReCAST sponsored activities, including those led by our community partners. These (so far) include:
We have multiple ReCAST learning activities taking shape to happen in the coming months too, with topics including: