Miami-Dade Trauma Recovery Network will provide victims of violence a smoother path to healing | Opinion

·4 min read

The need to provide healing to people harmed by violence has never been more urgent. Miami got a head start recently, when state Attorney General Ashley Moody and Thriving Mind South Florida — a Miami-based network of mental-health and substance-use healthcare providers — established the Miami-Dade Trauma Recovery Network.

This new model of care offers survivors of violent crime intensive wraparound services proven to help victims heal from their experience. I know, personally and professionally, how important this development is.

When I was a teenager, I was caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting on my way home from a birthday party in Miami Gardens. Someone in a car opened fire and, as I pushed my young nephew to the car floor, bullets riddled my body.

The weeks and months that followed were awful. Several surgeries helped heal my body. But little was available to heal my heart and mind. I struggled with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and had trouble working and sleeping. Like many survivors of crime and violence, I was offered limited counseling for my trauma, received almost no information about victims’ assistance and had no follow-up from law enforcement.

Even though I now work in the community to promote healing for survivors, there are moments where that trauma takes me back to being that same teenage girl who was shot. I often wonder where I would be if I had received comprehensive help. Until recently, many people in Miami-Dade who needed that kind of assistance never got it.

The obvious problem with allowing unaddressed trauma to persist is that it prolongs suffering that could otherwise be reduced. The less-obvious problem is that it makes everyone less safe. Left untreated, trauma can lead to new cycles of crime and violence — for example, when people seek revenge, channel unresolved anger toward others or seek refuge in alcohol or drugs. This is especially relevant for lower-income communities of color, where statistics show residents are both more likely to become victims of crime or violence and less likely to receive support afterward.

The Trauma Recovery Center (TRC) model that inspired Miami-Dade’s Trauma Recovery Network is a growing model of care especially effective in promoting healing and providing support to high-risk communities. TRCs — for which the Alliance for Safety and Justice and Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice advocated in Florida based on benefits shown in Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, California and Iowa — employ best practices in mental-health and trauma counseling and also help survivors apply for victims’ compensation and navigate the justice system. This multi-dimensional support has been shown to help survivors recover and heal, especially in communities where crime and violence are most common.

Miami-Dade’s new Trauma Recovery Network is funded by a $2.3 million annual federal Victims of Crime Act grant awarded by Moody’s office. Thriving Mind South Florida provides comprehensive linkage to services, including free mental health evaluations and treatment, for traumatized victims of violent crime and their families living in Miami-Dade County.

At this phase of the project’s implementation, individuals and their families can enter the program after being identified as a victim of violent crime who has arrived at one of Jackson Health System’s trauma centers or emergency departments.

I believe so much in this model that I decided to work in the Thriving Mind Trauma Recovery Network to ensure that survivors can get comprehensive support to begin their healing journey. This program plays a crucial role for survivors like me and for communities harmed by violent crime through support for mental and emotional health, a reduction in the likelihood of re-victimization and by working to keep families safe and intact.

Addressing trauma quickly is often a critical missing piece among the various strategies used to stop the cycle of crime and create safer communities. In Florida, as in most of America, public safety policies have tended to focus on incarceration. Crime survivors like me know that we also need to invest more in healing and prevention. Miami-Dade’s new Trauma Recovery Network will help to broaden our approach to public safety by placing greater emphasis on the well-being of victims and interrupting cycles of crime. This will benefit everyone in Miami-Dade County.

Had Thriving Mind’s Trauma Recovery Network existed when I was shot, my path to healing would have been completely different. I am grateful now to contribute to this program’s work, which gives other survivors that better chance to heal.

Megan Hobson is a peer victim advocate specialist at Thriving Mind Trauma Recovery Network and the Miami chapter co-coordinator at Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.

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