First: “We have to assume when we’re dealing with people that they have been impacted by trauma.”
Second: “We have to be careful when we respond to people that we don’t re-traumatize them.”
So said Cindy Schwartz, project director for the Jail Diversion Program for the 11th Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project in Miami.
Schwartz spent two days in August in New York at a “train-the-trainer” event on trauma-informed response for criminal justice professionals.
And she’s wasted no time sharing what she learned: About 50 people have participated in trauma-informed response education as part of Crisis Intervention Team training under her program.
Experts agree high percentages of justice-involved men and women have experienced trauma.
“These types of trauma can be anything from witnessing a violent act … it could be being physically or sexually abused,” Schwartz said. “It could be a disaster like this Hurricane Sandy, watching your home fall apart.”
People’s behaviors, she said, may be the result of trying to stay safe and protect themselves – especially for people with mental illnesses who have experienced trauma.
Schwartz said she attended the training herself because she and others knew they needed a module on trauma-informed response in the CIT program.
“Throughout the CIT training, we are working on how to de-escalate the situation with people with mental illness in criminal justice encounters,” she said.
The training, she said, “gets to the heart of what is trauma and how to develop trauma-informed responses.”
The training was presented by the GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation, which is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Information is available here.
Schwartz also said she’d share her training experience. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-548-5319.